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Boeing Pilot Lied to F.A.A. Regarding 737 Max Jet

A grounded Icelandair Boeing 737 MAX aircraft parked in a Boeing employee parking lot at Boeing Field in Seattle, Wash., July 1, 2019. (Lindsey Wasson/Reuters)

A Boeing pilot who tested the 737 Max jet in flight simulators in 2016 admitted in a series of text messages that he lied to the Federal Aviation Administration regarding the plane’s performance.

The text messages, reviewed by the New York Times, show that the lead technical pilot for the plane, Mark Forkner, was having trouble with an automated flight system known as MCAS. Malfunctions with MCAS caused two 737 Max jets to crash, killing a total of 346 people.

“It’s running rampant in the sim,” Forkner wrote to a colleague, referring to the simulation. “Granted, I suck at flying, but even this was egregious.”

Eight months prior to the messages, Forkner had asked the F.A.A. to remove the MCAS from the 737 Max pilot’s manual. The F.A.A. approved the request, believing the system didn’t present a danger.

“I basically lied to the regulators (unknowingly),” Forkner texted.

Boeing had provided transcripts of the texts to the Justice Department earlier this year as part of a criminal investigation. The transcript was provided to Congress on Friday in advance of hearings this month at which Boeing chief executive Dennis A. Muilenburg is scheduled to testify on the crashes for the first time.

Forkner and Boeing did not immediately comment on the report.

F.A.A. Administrator Steve Dickinson castigated Boeing for not providing the messages to the F.A.A. at an earlier stage.

“I expect your explanation immediately regarding the content of this document and Boeing’s delay in disclosing the document to its safety regulator,” Dickinson wrote.

In March 2019 world aviation authorities grounded the 737 Max after two of the planes crashed within five months. Lion Air Flight 610 took off from Jakarta, Indonesia in October 2018 and crashed 12 minutes later, while Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 left Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in March of this year and crashed six minutes after takeoff.

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