Former Boeing chief technical pilot who tested 737 MAX indicted on fraud charges in Texas

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A Keller resident and former chief technical pilot for Boeing has been indicted on fraud charges in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas and will make his first court appearance in Fort Worth on Friday.

Mark A. Forkner, 49, is accused of withholding information from the Federal Aviation Administration’s Aircraft Evaluation Group during the certification of Boeing’s 737 MAX airplane, according to a news release from Texas Northern District U.S. Attorney Chad Meacham on Thursday.

The agency was unaware of the information before two Boeing 737 MAX airplanes crashed: Lion Air Flight 610 in October 2018 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 in March 2019. The crashes led to the grounding of all Boeing 737 MAX airplanes shortly after the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, Meacham said.

The indictment alleges Forkner gave “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” to the FAA around November 2016.

Without information on the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, U.S.-based airline customers lacked crucial information in their decision to pay for Boeing 737 MAX airplanes, Meacham said. The agency had published information on the Boeing 737 MAX airplanes, without the new augmentation system mentioned, in July 2017.

Pilots flying the Boeing 737 MAX airplanes were not notified of the system in their manuals. The augmentation system was running moments before Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed, Meacham said.

Charges against Forkner include two counts of fraud involving aircraft parts in interstate commerce and four counts of wire fraud. If convicted, Forkner could face up to 20 years in prison for each count of wire fraud and 10 years in prison for each count of fraud involving aircraft parts in interstate commerce.

Meacham said the indictment information related to Forkner are allegations and he is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

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