Federal prosecutors are preparing to indict a former Boeing test pilot suspected of misleading aviation regulators over the safety issues blamed for two fatal 737 MAX crashes, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday, citing people familiar with the matter.
It would, says the Journal, "be the first attempt to hold a Boeing employee accountable" for conduct before the two crashes.
Mark Forkner was Boeing's 737 MAX chief technical pilot during the aircraft's development, and was the lead contact between the aviation giant and the Federal Aviation Administration over how pilots should be trained to fly the planes, the Journal said. According to documents published in early 2020, Forkner withheld details about the planes' faulty flight handling system known as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS -- later blamed for both crashes -- from regulators.
The Journal said it wasn't clear what charges Forkner would face The 737 MAX was formally certified in March 2017 but was grounded worldwide for 20 months following the crashes in October 2018 and March 2019, which killed 346 people. The MAX wasat the end of 2020, once the MCAS software was modified. Boeing has acknowledged its responsibility in misleading regulators and to settle certain lawsuits. The Justice Department and Boeing declined to comment to the Journal.
A lawyer for Forkner, David Gerger, didn't respond to requests for comment Thursday from the Journal. Gerger has said in the past that Forkner, a pilot and Air Force veteran, wouldn't put pilots or passengers in danger.
The Journal previously reported that prosecutors were focused on Forkner and a second ex-Boeing pilot, Patrik Gustavsson, who also dealt with the FAA.