A federal grand jury in Texas’ Northern District returned an indictment charging a former Chief Technology Pilot with deceiving Federal Aviation Administration’s Aircraft Evaluation Group with their evaluation of Boeing’s 737 MAX aircraft. They also scheming for millions of dollars to Boeing’s U.S. based customers.
According to court documents Mark A. Forkner (49,) allegedly deceived and deceived an FAA AEG during its evaluation and certification of Boeing’s 737 Max airplane. According to the indictment, Forkner allegedly provided false, incomplete, and inaccurate information to the FAA AEG about a new component of the flight controls for Boeing 737 MAX, the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System.
Due to his deception, a key FAA AEG document did not contain any reference to MCAS. The FAA AEG published a key document that did not mention MCAS. Boeing’s U.S. customers were also denied important information in making decisions about paying billions of dollars to Boeing for 737 MAX aircrafts. Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. said that
“Forkner had allegedly abused his trust by deliberately withholding crucial information about MCAS from Boeing’s U.S. customers and during the FAA certification and evaluation of the 737MAX. Polite Jr., of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. He deprived pilots and airlines of crucial information about the aircraft’s flight controls. The FAA is a regulator that ensures the safety of pilots and passengers. Anyone who is contemplating criminally obstructing the function of a regulator’s office will be aware that this indictment makes it clear that the Justice Department will investigate the facts and hold you responsible.”
“In order to save Boeing money Forkner allegedly withheld crucial information from regulators,” stated Chad E. Meacham, Acting U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Texas. His rash decision to mislead FAA has hampered its ability to protect the flying public. It also left pilots without information about certain 737 Max flight controls. Fraud is not acceptable by the Department of Justice, especially in high-stakes industries. “
Forkner is accused of withholding crucial information about Boeing 737Max and deceiving the FAA. He allegedly showed blatant disregard for both his responsibilities as well as the safety of crews and customers of airlines,” stated Assistant Director Calvin Shivers, FBI. “The FBI will continue holding individuals such as Forker responsible for their fraudulences that undermine public safety.
“There’s no excuse for those who deceive safety regulators in the name of commercial expediency or personal gain,” stated Inspector General Eric J. Soskin of U.S. Department of Transportation. “Our office is committed to protecting the public and keeping the skies safe for flying. Our unwavering commitment to working together with our law enforcement partners and prosecutorial partners to hold those who put lives at danger .”
According to court documents, Boeing began marketing and developing the 737 Max in June 2011.. Based on the nature and extents of differences between the 737 Max and the previous version of Boeing’s 737 plane, the 737 Next Generation, (NG), the FAA AEG determined the minimum pilot training required to fly the 737 MaX for a U.S.-based carrier. The 737MAX Flight Standardization Board Report (FSB Report) was published by the FAA AEG after this evaluation. It included information about the differences between the 737 MAX & the 737 NG. All U.S.-based airlines had to use the 737 FSB Report information as the basis of their pilot training.
As the Chief Technical Pilot for Boeing, Forkner was responsible for providing accurate and complete information to the FAA AEG about the 737 Max and the 737 N for the FAA AEG to evaluate, prepare, and publish the 737 FSB Report.
In and around November 2016, Forkner found information about a significant change to MCAS. Instead of sharing this information with the FAA AEG., Forkner allegedly deliberately withheld the information and deceived it to the FAA AEG. The FAA AEG removed all references to MCAS in the 737 MAX_ FSB Report that was published in July 2017.. Pilots who flew the 737 Max for Boeing’s U.S.-based customers did not receive any information about MCAS in training and manuals. Forkner provided copies of the 737 FSB Report to Boeing’s U.S-based 737 Max airline customers. However, Forkner withheld important information about MCAS as well as the 737 FSB Report Evaluation process from these customers.
On or around Oct. 29, 2018, After the FAA AEG found out that Lion Air Flight 610 had crashed close to Jakarta, Indonesia shortly after takeoff, and that MCAS had been operating during the crash, the FAA AEG discovered that Forkner had withheld information about an important change to MCAS.
After obtaining this information, the FAA AEG began to evaluate MCAS.
On or around March 2019,, while the FAA AEG continued to review MCAS, it learned that an Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 had crashed close to Ejere, Ethiopia shortly after takeoff. MCAS was also operating during the time before the crash. All 737 MAX aircraft were grounded in the United States shortly after the crash.
Forkner was charged with two counts fraud involving parts of aircraft in interstate commerce as well as four counts wire fraud. His initial court appearance is scheduled for Friday, in Fort Worth, Texas before U.S. Magistrate Jeffrey L. Cureton of U.S. District Court for Northern District of Texas. He faces a maximum sentence of 20 year in prison for each count wire fraud, and 10years in prison for each count fraud involving parts of aircraft in interstate commerce. After considering all relevant U.S. factors, a federal district court judge will decide the sentence. The Sentencing Guidelines and other factors.
An indictment is only an allegation. All defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt in a court.
The Chicago field offices are conducting an investigation with assistance from other FBI and DOT-OIG offices.
Trial Attorney Cory E. Jacobs and Assistant Chief Michael T. O’Neill are investigating the case. Scott Armstrong, Trial Attorney, Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, and Alex Lewis, Assistant U.S. Attorney, are prosecuting this case.
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