Elaine Thompson / AP
DALLAS (Reuters) – A Boeing pilot involved in testing the 737 Max airliner was indicted on Thursday by a federal grand jury for misleading safety regulators who were evaluating the plane, which was later involved in two fatal accidents.
The indictment accuses Mark A. Forkner of giving the Federal Aviation Administration false and incomplete information about an automated flight control system that played a role in the crashes, which killed 346 people.
Prosecutors said that due to Forkner’s “alleged deception”, the system was not mentioned in key FAA documents, pilot manuals or pilot training materials provided to airlines.
The flight control system automatically stuck the noses of the Max jets that crashed in 2018 in Indonesia and in 2019 in Ethiopia. The pilots tried unsuccessfully to regain control, but the two planes nosed down a few minutes after takeoff. Most pilots were unaware of the system, known as the Maneuver Characteristics Augmentation System, until after the first crash.
Forkner, 49, has been charged with two counts of fraud involving aircraft parts in interstate commerce and four counts of wire fraud. Federal prosecutors have said he is scheduled to appear in court for the first time on Friday in Fort Worth, Texas. If found guilty on all counts, he could face a sentence of up to 100 years in prison.