US judge dismisses two charges against former Boeing 737 MAX technical pilot

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Feb 9, 2022: According to a report by Reuters, a US judge has dismissed two charges against a former chief technical pilot for Boeing who was accused of deceiving federal regulators evaluating the company’s 737 MAX jet, but rejected a request to dismiss the other four counts.

A part of the fraud counts against former Boeing technical pilot Mark Forkner, have been dismissed by US District Judge Reed O’Connor in Texas on request of Forkner’s lawyers. The charges stated that Forkner made materially false communications concerning a key airplane software feature called Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS).

The MCAS which is reponsible for automatically pushing the airplane’s nose down in certain conditions was tied to the two 737 MAX crashes over a five-month period in 2018 and 2019 that killed 346 people. The accidents and subsequent investigations led to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grounding the plane for 20 months, an action lifted in November 2020.

The judge ruled on Tuesday the two charges could not proceed because they must involve a tangible airplane part — rather than the MCAS software feature.

He did however reject a request to dismiss the other four counts which allege wire fraud. Forkner was indicted in October on charges of scheming to defraud Boeing’s US-based airline customers to obtain tens of millions of dollars for Boeing. The case will go to trial in March.

Boeing has already agreed to a $2.5 billion prosecution settlement agreement with the US Department of Justice over the MAX crashes, which cost Boeing more than $20 billion.

The US Justice Department said that it had not charged Forkner with “causing the crash of Lion Air Flight 610 or Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302” and did not intend to prosecute him for those.

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