Boeing’s former chief technical pilot on the 737 MAX is expected to be indicted on criminal charges in the next few days. The Wall Street Journal first reported Thursday that Mark Forkner, who left Boeing about two years ago, is expected to be indicted in the next few days to face allegations that he misled FAA officials on the significance of the addition of the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) to the MAX. MCAS, which adjusts the angle of the horizontal stabilizer to change the pitch of the aircraft, was installed to compensate for aerodynamic differences between the MAX and earlier generation 737s. It was designed to operate in the background without pilot input and was cited in two fatal crashes involving the MAX.
According to the Seattle Times, part of the Deferred Prosecution Agreement between Boeing and the FAA called out Forkner and his deputy chief pilot for allegedly misrepresenting the significance of the addition of the MCAS while exonerating senior brass. The Times says Forkner will likely argue that he was under intense pressure from above to convince the FAA that the MAX was so similar to the earlier 737s that minimal type training would be required, thus saving potential customers millions in training costs. In the two crashes, MCAS overpowered flight crews after getting erroneous data from angle of attack indicators and put the aircraft, one operated by Lion Air and the second by Ethiopian Airlines, into unrecoverable high-speed dives.