Federal prosecutors are gearing up to indict a former Boeing test pilot over the tragic 737 MAX crashes that occurred before the type’s grounding in 2019. The pilot is suspected of misleading regulators over safety issues.
This time last year, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee released a document emphasizing that there was a series of false assumptions, mismanagement, and rushed deadlines over the introduction of the 737 MAX. The report highlighted that these factors, along with miscommunication and deception, meant that design flaws failed to be caught, which ultimately led to the crashes of Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302.
Now, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reports that former Boeing pilot Mark Forkner is facing prosecution amid allegedly misleading air-safety regulators. The aviator was the MAX’s chief technical pilot during the plane’s development. He served as Boeing’s main contact with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in regard to how pilots should be trained to handle the jets. It is likely that he will face prosecution in the coming weeks.
WSJ’s report states that Forkner didn’t share details about the aircraft’s flight handling system – Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), which was not on previous variants of the 737.
Boeing has since admitted its responsibility following the crashes and has agreed to pay billions of dollars in settlements.
“Boeing will pay a total criminal monetary amount of over $2.5 billion, composed of a criminal monetary penalty of $243.6 million, compensation payments to Boeing’s 737 MAX airline customers of $1.77 billion, and the establishment of a $500 million crash-victim beneficiaries fund to compensate the heirs, relatives, and legal beneficiaries of the 346 passengers who died in the Boeing 737 MAX crashes of Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302.” – Department of Justice Office of Public Affairs, January 2021.
Boeing has since worked intently with regulators to make modifications to the MCAS. Subsequently, after a 20-month grounding between March 2019 and December 2020, the type has been hitting the skies again since the end of last year. Airlines in several key regions have already gotten to grips with the narrowbody again. Now, several more MAX’s are preparing for action after additional clearances.
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The saga continues
Nonetheless, even though the plane is in the air again, it’s unlikely that we will hear the end about what occurred during the lead up to the crashes any time soon. Authorities will undoubtedly be keen to address everything across the board.
Simple Flying reached out to Boeing for comment on this week’s report. We will update the article with any further announcements from the company.
What are your thoughts about federal prosecutors indicting a former Boeing test pilot over the 737 MAX crashes? What do you make of the overall situation related to the aircraft? Let us know what you think of the events in the comment section.