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Boeing pilot involved in Max testing is indicted in Texas

2021-10-14 21:00:10 –

Dallas — A former Boeing pilot was charged by a federal grand jury on Thursday for deceiving safety regulators on a 737 Max airliner and later being involved in two fatal crashes.

The indictment accuses Mark A. Falkner of providing the Federal Aviation Administration with false and incomplete information about the automated flight control system that played a role in the crash that killed 346 people.

The prosecution said the system was not mentioned in the pilot manual or training materials because of alleged Falkner deception.

Forkner’s lawyer did not immediately respond to the comment. Boeing and FAA declined to comment.

Forkner, 49, was charged with two frauds involving aircraft parts and four transfer frauds in interstate commerce. A federal prosecutor said he will appear in court for the first time in Fort Worth, Texas on Friday. If convicted in all respects, he could face up to 100 years in prison.

The complaint alleges that he misfired and hid information about the flight control system that pushed down Maxjet’s nose, which crashed in Indonesia in 2018 and in Ethiopia in 2019. The pilot tried to regain control, but a few minutes after takeoff, both planes plummeted.

Falkner was Boeing’s chief technical pilot in the Max program. Prosecutors said Forkner had learned of significant changes to the flight control system of the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System in 2016, but withheld information from the FAA. As a result, the agency removed the reference to MCAS from the technical report and did not show it in the pilot manual. Most pilots didn’t know about MCAS until after the first crash.

Prosecutors have suggested that Forkner is downplaying the power of the system to avoid the requirement for pilots to undergo large-scale and costly retraining that would increase airline training costs. Parliamentary investigators suggested that additional training would add $ 1 million to the price of each plane.

“In order to save Boeing’s money, Forkner is alleged to have withheld important information from regulators,” said Chad Meecham, acting federal prosecutor for the northern Texas district. “His cold choice to mislead the FAA lacked information on certain 737 MAX flight controls, hampered the agency’s ability to protect the public in flight, and left the pilot in a hurry.”

Falkner told another Boeing employee in 2016 that MCAS was “terrible” and “rampaging” when tested in a flight simulator, but did not tell the FAA.

“So I basically lied (unknowingly) to the regulator,” Falkner wrote in a message published in 2019.

Falkner, who lives in the suburbs of Fort Worth, joined Southwest Airlines after leaving Boeing, but left the airline about a year ago.

Chicago-based Boeing has agreed to a $ 2.5 billion settlement to end the Justice Department’s investigation into its actions. The government has agreed to withdraw criminal charges of conspiracy against Boeing three years later if Boeing fulfills the January 2020 settlement terms. The settlement included a $ 243.6 million fine, nearly $ 1.8 billion for the airline that bought the plane, and $ 500 million in a fund to compensate the families of the murdered passengers.

A family of dozens of passengers is suing Boeing in a federal court in Chicago.

The clash investigation highlighted the role of MCAS, but also pointed out mistakes by airlines and pilots. Maxjet has been grounded around the world for over a year and a half. The FAA approved a re-flight of the plane at the end of last year after Boeing made changes to MCAS.

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David König can be reached at www.twitter.com/airlinewriter



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