FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — A former Boeing Co. test pilot was acquitted Wednesday on felony charges of deceiving federal regulators about a key flight-control system that played a role in two deadly crashes involving 737 Max jets.
A jury in federal district court in Fort Worth found Mark Forkner not guilty on four counts of wire fraud.
Prosecutors accused Forkner of misleading Federal Aviation Administration regulators about the amount of training pilots would need to fly the Max. The FAA required only brief computer-based training for pilots instead of more extensive practice in simulators that could have cost Boeing penalties of up to $1 million per plane.
Defense lawyers told the jury that Forkner was a scapegoat for Boeing and FAA officials who sought to avoid blame after Max crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia killed 346 people. They told jurors that Boeing engineers did not tell Forkner about changes to the flight software, known by its acronym, MCAS.
Testimony in the trial lasted less than three days, after jury selection and opening statements by lawyers Friday evening. Forkner did not testify. Judge Reed O'Connor had instructed the jurors not to consider his silence as a sign of guilt or innocence.
Forkner was Boeing's chief technical pilot for the 737 Max, giving him a key role in determining pilot-training requirements. Prosecutors tried to use Forkner's internal messages to colleagues against him, particularly one in which he said he unknowingly misled regulators.