In a striking story, New York Times writers David Giles and Natalie Kitroeff report that despite Boeing’s repeatedly saying it had no idea that the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) was unsafe, recent emails between Boeings test pilots prove otherwise.
On October 18, 2019, Boeing produced a transcript of messages of Mark Forkner, a test pilot working on the B737 Max8, in which Forkner expressed his concerns about the MCAS. In these messages, Forkner told a colleague that the system was behaving unpredictably in a simulator and was “running rampant.”These messages were written in November 2016, months before the 737 Max8 was certified by the FAA and years before the fatal crashes of Lion Air Fight JT610 (October 29, 2018) and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 (March 13, 2019). The transcript shows that Forkner said, “Granted, I suck at flying but even this was egregious.” Read the transcript here. He wrote to Patrick Gustavsson, a fellow 737 Boeing technical pilot, “the aircraft is trimming itself like crazy. I’m like WHAT?”
Forkner was the chief technical pilot for the Max 8 and was the person responsible for communication with the FAA group who was to determine how pilots would be trained to fly the Max 8. He was instrumental in Boeing’s being able to convince international Civil Aviation Authorities that the aircraft was safe. In his messages, Folkner admitted he had lied to the FAA. “I basically lied to the regulators (unknowingly),” but it is unclear exactly to what he is referring.
Lawmakers responded as one would expect. Representative Peter Defazio (D-OR) stated this was more than just a civil or FAA matter: This is the smoking gun. This is no longer just a regulatory failure …It’s starting to look like criminal misconduct.” Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) was equally as strong: “They must be held accountable if Boeing was deceptive or misleading in failing to report safety concerns…these reports indicate …that Boeing’s own employees lied and concealed the truth.”
Also see: https://www.ntsb.gov/investigations/AccidentReports/Reports/ASR1901.pdf, which contains the National Transportation Safety Board’s recommendations to address assumptions about pilot recognitions and response to failure conditions used in the design certification process and diagnostic tools to improve the prioritization and clarity of failure indications.
James T. Crouse has been a pilot for thirty-two years, during which time he has performed as a U.S. Army aircraft maintenance officer, maintenance test pilot, and research and development test pilot. Mr. Crouse has litigation experience involving major air carriers, general aviation, helicopter, and military crashes, as well as non-aviation mass disaster litigation.