A Texas jury has acquitted Mark Forkner, the former Boeing Co. test pilot charged with fraud in the wake of the 737 MAX certification debacle. Since Boeing secured a deferred-prosecution agreement with the Feds by paying roughly $2.5 billion in penalties, Forkner remains the only individual charged with a crime in the deadly fiasco surrounding development and certification of the 737 MAX.
Between October 2018 and March 2019, 346 people died in two separate crashes of the 737 MAX. The FAA subsequently grounded the MAX for 20 months, the longest-ever grounding of a U.S. airliner, and the only airliner to be grounded publicly by the President of the United States.
Described by some as “Boeing’s fall guy,” Forkner, 47, served as chief technical pilot during development of the 737 MAX and was indicted because of his responsibilities as a key interface between Boeing and the FAA during certification. Strangely, the prosecution of Forkner appears to suggest he acted alone, while Boeing itself acknowledged 50 or more employees may have been involved with practices of deception during certification.
Jurors in the Forkner case deliberated for less than two hours, and Forkner’s attorney released a statement praising the judge and jury, stating, “They made all the difference.” According to email excerpts contained in the indictment, Forkner discovered in the simulator how the 737 MAX Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) affected the jet’s flying qualities, stating at one point to an engineer, “It’s running rampant in the sim on me.”