A federal grand jury in the Northern District of Texas has decided to return an indictment that charges a former Chief Technical Pilot for The Boeing Company (Boeing) with two counts of fraud involving aircraft parts in interstate commerce and four counts of wire fraud, all connected to Boeing’s collaboration with the Federal Aviation Administration’s Aircraft Evaluation Group (FAA AEG) to recertify the 737 MAX after two models crashed in 2018 and 2019, both times killing all aboard. As reported in a recent story published on WNN, whistleblower Ed Pierson has cast significant doubt on the validity of the recertification process for the 737 MAXs for some time.
In an October 14 Department of Justice (DOJ) press release, the government made public allegations against Mark A. Forkner, a former employee of Boeing. The government claims that he “provided the agency with materially false, inaccurate, and incomplete information about a new part of the flight controls for the Boeing 737 MAX called the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS).” According to the press release, Forkner’s omission of critical information resulted in the lack of reference to MCAS in a critical document published by FAA AEG. This meant that when the FAA AEG created new manuals and requirements for pilots hoping to train and become certified to fly 737 MAXs, the manuals also “lacked any references to MCAS.” In turn, the government claims that this resulted in Boeing clients and the general public being deprived of critical information when deciding to purchase or travel on 737 MAXs.
“Forkner allegedly abused his position of trust by intentionally withholding critical information about MCAS during the FAA evaluation and certification of the 737 MAX and from Boeing’s U.S.‑based airline customers,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “In doing so, he deprived airlines and pilots from knowing crucial information about an important part of the airplane’s flight controls. Regulators like the FAA serve a vital function to ensure the safety of the flying public. To anyone contemplating criminally impeding a regulator’s function, this indictment makes clear that the Justice Department will pursue the facts and hold you accountable.”
During his time at Boeing, Forkner led the 737 MAX Flight Technical Team in communicating with FAA AEG. He was also responsible for providing accurate information that would eventually be reflected in the 737 MAX Flight Standardization Board Report (FSB Report).
While conditions surrounding the failure of the MCAS system and the reason for the system’s malfunction are still in dispute, it is clear that MCAS caused both Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 to lose control and crash.
According to the press release, “Forkner is charged with two counts of fraud involving aircraft parts in interstate commerce and four counts of wire fraud. He is expected to make his initial court appearance on Friday in Fort Worth, Texas, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey L. Cureton of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas.” The press release states that if Forkner is convicted, “he faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison on each count of wire fraud and 10 years in prison on each count of fraud involving aircraft parts in interstate commerce. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.”
Pierson’s continuing allegations go further than this most recent indictment, claiming that conditions at the Renton, WA factory that produced the planes starting in 2017 were incredibly stressful, resulting in inherent construction defects in many of the planes. He has reported that the complex electrical systems of the planes is most likely what caused these MCAS malfunctions, and many other non-fatal incidents with the planes.
While this indictment seems to demonstrate that DOJ and FAA AEG are still interested in pursuing the causes of the crashes and wrongdoing at Boeing during this period of time, it does not address the root issues that Pierson has described in detail.