At the end of 2020, the planes Boeing 737 Max returned to fly. It looked like the novel about the aircraft was over. But investigations into the failures that caused two line-unit tragedies continue, and in the latest chapter, they put a name against the wall: Mark Forkner, former Boeing technical pilot, was accused of concealing critical information about the 737’s software Max.
The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) is responsible for regulating civil aviation in the United States. Among its attributions is the verification of the technical and safety parameters of the aircraft that fly across the country.
Because of his position, Forkner was one of the Boeing employees scheduled to make talks with the FAA regarding the 737 Max’s approval processes.
The problems start here: the US Department of Justice (DoJ) claims that the pilot provided the FAA with “false, incomplete and inaccurate information about the MCAS”, a system whose main function is to prevent the plane from stalling (losing support) .
This is a very serious indictment. The MCAS is considered the main factor for accidents with the 737 Max planes that operated the JT610, by Lion Air, and ET302, by Ethiopian Airlines. In either case, the system would have taken action for misinterpreting that there was an ongoing stall situation.
Pilot supposedly knew about problems with MCAS
As the 737 Max planes have bigger and heavier engines compared to the previous generation, Boeing implemented the MCAS in the line because it understood that these characteristics would make the aircraft more susceptible to a stall. Under certain circumstances, it is up to the system to lower the aircraft’s nose to prevent this from happening.
If an aircraft system kicks in at the wrong time, pilots must act immediately to disable or correct it. The problem is that the 737 Max planes went into operation without the pilots having information about the MCAS.
According to the investigations, Mark Forkner would have discovered that MCAS could make it difficult to fly the 737 Max planes in November 2016 and chose to hide this information from authorities. As a result, the 737 Max line was approved by the FAA without manuals and training routines having guidance on the system.
“By doing this, he prevented airlines and pilots from having crucial information about an important part of the aircraft’s flight controls,” points out the DoJ.
What would have led Mark Forkner to withhold information about MCAS? According to Chad Meacham, US Attorney General in Texas, financial motivations:
In an effort to save Boeing money, Forkner allegedly withheld critical information from regulators. His decision to deceive the FAA affected the FAA’s ability to protect travelers and left pilots in a delicate situation with no information about certain flight controls on the 737 Max.
In early 2021, Boeing agreed to pay $2.5 billion to finalize the lawsuit on the matter. It is the first time, however, that an individual has received an accusation related to the scandal. Out of Boeing since July 2018, Mark Forkner faces up to 100 years in prison, depending on the charges he is found guilty of.
Accidents caused the death of 346 people
The first Boeing 737 Max accident happened near Indonesia on October 29, 2018 and caused the death of 189 people. The second aircraft crashed in the Ethiopian region on March 10, 2019 and killed 157 people.
There were 346 lives lost in two tragedies involved in similar circumstances. Both accidents happened minutes after takeoff and occurred at relatively close dates. These factors caused flights with Boeing 737 Max aircraft to be suspended worldwide as of March 2019.
After a series of technical adjustments to systems, documents and training routines, the FAA authorized the return of operations with the line in November 2020.
It is worth noting that, in Brazil, Gol Linhas Aéreas is the only company that works with the 737 Max. The company hopes to end 2021 with 28 aircraft of the type in operation. By the end of 2022, that number could reach 44 planes.
With information: Gizmodo.