The trial of Mark Forkner, Boeing’s former chief technical pilot on the 737 MAX, got underway in Fort Worth last week with prosecutors claiming he lied to regulators about the significance of changes to the flight control system and his defense alleging he’s being scapegoated. Forkner is the only person to face criminal charges resulting from investigations into Boeing and the FAA’s handling of the certification of the MAX, two of which crashed, killing 346 people. Forkner was a main point of contact between the company and the agency during much of the certification process and the implementation of the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System into the jet’s flight control system. He has pleaded not guilty to four fraud charges. He originally faced six charges but two were dropped.

The prosecution intends to introduce scores of emails and other documents to prove that Forkner intentionally misled FAA representatives on the implications of adding MCAS, which was intended to provide electronic dampening of the aerodynamic effects of adding much larger engines and repositioning them on the aircraft. MCAS was cited in both of the crashes, one in Indonesia and one in Ethiopia. In both cases faulty data from attitude indicators prompted the system to push the aircraft into dives the pilots could not arrest. The prosecution argues that Forkner minimized the impact of MCAS because Boeing wanted to certify the aircraft without the need for extensive retraining of pilots. Forkner claims he was kept in the dark about significant changes made to the system as certification flight testing continued.

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