Boeing chief technical pilot couldn’t ‘Jedi mind trick’ his way out of a federal indictment

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Mark Forkner brags in email about prompting FAA assessors to drop safety requirements for 737 Max

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Mark Forkner, the former chief technical pilot of Boeing, was convicted In two cases of fraud and four cases of wire fraud For his role in the Boeing 737 MAX debacle. He is accused of withholding information from FAA assessors about software on the Boeing 737 Max that was at the center of two crashes that killed 346 people,

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That software, the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), interpreted the aircraft as stalling when it had not crashed. The rapid development of the 737 MAX required larger, heavier engines that could make it susceptible to stalling in certain takeoff situations. To prevent this from happening, Boeing established the MCAS to automatically lower the nose. When the system was activated by mistake, the pilots were unprepared – not present in the previous version of the MCAS 737 – and were unable to regain control of the aircraft.

Emails that surfaced during the investigation revealed that Forkner was aware that MCAS could make the 737 MAX difficult to fly. He also showed that he knew the system was operating at a lower speed than Boeing reported to the FAA.

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Forkner emailed coworkers acknowledging that the system was difficult and said, “I basically lied to regulators (unintentionally),” according to the indictment. Eight months after sending those emails, he insisted on the FAA to remove any mention of the troubled MCAS from his report.

Forkner is also responsible for pushing against simulator training requirements for pilots prior to flying the 737 MAX, despite his experience in the simulator fighting problems that eventually resulted in deaths.

Prosecutors explained that airlines could spend less money on training and increase the profitability of the 737 MAX, by reducing the requirements on each aircraft. In another email, after convincing an airline to drop his training requirements, Forkner wrote, “Looks like my Jedi [sic] Mind trick worked again! These are not the droids you are looking for.”

Boeing was charged with conspiracy to commit the incident and fined $2.5 billion. Forkner faces up to 20 years in prison for each count of wire fraud and up to 10 years in prison for each count of fraud.

Boeing 737 Max Prosecution
Image: DOJ

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