Messages reveal a top Boeing pilot knew about problems with the 737 Max's 'egregious' behavior before 2 deadly crashes
- Boeing's chief technical pilot on the 737 Max project told another employee in 2016 that there were "egregious" problems with the jet's automated MCAS system.
- The pilot made those observations at least two years before the first of two deadly crashes involving the 737 Max, in October 2018 and in March 2019.
- Internal instant messages sent by Mark Forkner, the chief technical pilot, and another Boeing employee in 2016, were found by Boeing "some months ago," according to Reuters, which first reported on the messages. The New York Times obtained them.
- The news comes as Boeing works to get the 737 Max back into service seven months after it was grounded worldwide.
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Boeing's chief technical pilot on the 737 Max project told another employee in 2016 that there were "egregious" problems with the jet's automated MCAS system, two years before the first of two fatal crashes attributed to the system, The New York Times reported on Friday.
Internal instant messages sent by Mark Forkner, the chief technical pilot, and another Boeing employee in 2016, were found by Boeing "some months ago," according to a report from Reuters, which first reported on the messages. However, Boeing did not turn them over to the FAA until Thursday.
In the messages, Forkner complained that the MCAS system was causing problems during flight simulations. "It's running rampant in the sim," he said in one message. "Granted, I suck at flying, but even this was egregious," he continued.
In another message, he suggested that he had unintentionally misled the FAA about the issue.
"I basically lied to the regulators (unknowingly)," he said, according to The New York Times.
Earlier in 2016, Forkner asked the FAA for permission to remove mention of the MCAS system from the pilot's manual for the 737 Max, arguing that it would only activate in rare emergency settings. The FAA approved the request.
Forkner could not immediately be reached for comment by Business Insider.
The FAA told Reuters it found the messages "concerning" and "is reviewing this information to determine what action is appropriate."
Forkner was previously reported to have pleaded the fifth, refusing to incriminate himself with his testimony, after being subpoenaed for documents as part of the US Justice Department's investigation into the Max.
Boeing's CEO, Dennis Muilenburg, is set to testify about the two crashes and the development of the plane on before the United States Senate later this month.
The 737 Max has been grounded since March, following the second of two fatal crashes in a five-month span.
Preliminary reports into the two crashes that led to the grounding - Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 - indicate that MCAS, the automated system, erroneously engaged and forced the planes' noses to point down due to a problem with the design of the system's software. Pilots were unable to regain control of the aircraft.
MCAS - the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System - engaged because it could be activated by a single sensor reading - in both crashes, the sensors are suspected of having failed, sending erroneous data to the flight computer and, without a redundant check in place, triggering the automated system.
MCAS was designed to compensate for the fact that the 737 Max has larger engines than previous 737 generations. The larger engines could cause the plane's nose to tip upward, leading to a stall - in that situation, MCAS could automatically point the nose downward to negate the effect of the engine size.
Boeing is aiming to submit a proposed fix to the FAA and get the plane certified to fly again by the end of 2019. US airlines have pulled the jet from their schedules until at least January.
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