Boeing 737 Max: Trial of ex-pilot fraud allegations begins


A former Boeing test pilot is scheduled to be tried on Friday in federal court on charges of misleading the regulators that approved the 737 Max and the airlines that used the model. aircraft in two crashes that killed 346 people.

Mark A. Forkner is the only person to face criminal charges in a case that has drawn widespread condemnation from Boeing.

Based on both sides’ court records, the trial is likely to feature testimony from technical experts and even Boeing’s internal communications to shed light on discussions about the Max inside the company.

Until his departure in 2018, Forkner was Boeing’s chief technical pilot for the Max, which helped him play a key role in assessing the differences between the Max and earlier 737s and deciding determine the level of pilot training required to fly the new version.

According to the indictment, Forkner knew of the changes that caused the critical flight control system to be activated more often than originally planned, but he hid those knowledge from his managers. Federal Aviation Administration. As a result, information about the new system, known for short as MCAS, was removed from FAA reports and aircraft manuals. Most pilots don’t know about it.

MCAS played a key role in collisions in 2018 off the coast of Indonesia and in 2019 in Ethiopia. The software reacted to the faulty sensor readings by repeatedly pushing the nose down and the pilot was unable to regain control.

The indictment did not blame the collisions on Forkner, and federal prosecutors asked U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor to ban mentioning the collisions in front of jurors.

However, Forkner’s attorneys wanted to ask potential jurors what they had read and heard about the crash. They said Forkner would not have faced criminal charges had the crash not occurred.

“The investigation may target Boeing, or its senior executives, who were ‘subjects’ but are now witnesses at trial,” the lawyers wrote in a statement. They said fear related to the collisions had led witnesses to “support the prosecution.”

The list of witnesses for the prosecution includes three Boeing employees, government experts, and representatives from two major Boeing customers: Southwest Airlines and American Airlines.

Defense could call more than two dozen current or former Boeing employees, including several test pilots, and Curtis Ewbank, an engineer who quit after allegations that his bosses turned down improvements. safe advance for Max for cost reasons. Forkner is listed as a potential witness.

Boeing has reached an agreement with federal officials to avoid prosecution for the conspiracy. The company paid a $244 million fine as part of the January 2021 settlement.

Separately, the families of the passengers killed in the crash are asking another federal judge in Fort Worth to rescind Boeing’s agreement and review criminal charges against the company and its directors. top executives, who they say put profit above safety.

Family members say Boeing was in a hurry to put the new version of the 737 into production because European rival Airbus was ahead of it in developing a more fuel-efficient plane. MCAS was added to the Max to accommodate the new, larger engine on the 50-year-old 737 design.

Adrian Toole, a British man whose daughter Joanna was killed in the second Max crash, said: “The 737 has its day. “The whole thing should have been removed, and they should have put a new plane on the artboard.”

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