Breaking News
Ad-Free Version. Upgrade your experience. Save up to 40% More details

Boeing pilots' messages on 737 MAX safety raise new questions

Stock MarketsOct 18, 2019 08:00PM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This article has already been saved in your Saved Items
© Reuters. Unpainted Boeing 737 MAX aircraft are seen parked at Renton Municipal Airport in Renton

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A Boeing (NYSE:BA) Co senior pilot said he might have unintentionally misled regulators, in a series of internal messages from 2016 that became public Friday, plunging the world's largest airplane maker into a fresh crisis.

The messages, first reported by Reuters, sent Boeing shares tumbling, prompted a demand by U.S. regulators for an immediate explanation, and a new call in Congress for Boeing to shake up its management as it continues to grapple with the fallout from two fatal crashes that have grounded its fastest-selling plane.

In a transcript of instant messages between two employees, the 737 MAX's then-chief technical pilot, Mark Forkner, said the so-called MCAS anti-stall system in the airplane was "running rampant" in a flight simulator session. The system has been tied to the crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia that together killed 346 people.

The messages, which sources provided to Reuters, appear to be the first publicly known observations that MCAS behaved erratically during testing before the aircraft entered service. (

The Federal Aviation Administration ordered Boeing Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg to give an "immediate" explanation for the delay in turning over the "concerning" document which Boeing discovered some months ago.

The fresh discovery came days before Muilenburg, who was stripped of his chairman title by the board last week, is due to testify before Congress.

"These messages indicate that Boeing withheld damning information from the FAA, which is highly disturbing," Peter DeFazio, Chair of the U.S. House of Representatives transportation committee, wrote in a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao on Friday.

The FAA said it "is reviewing this information to determine what action is appropriate."

A person briefed on the matter said Boeing failed to turn over the documents to the FAA for four months and that the Justice Department is also in possession of the messages.

Boeing said on Friday that Muilenburg had called FAA Administrator Steve Dickson to respond to the concerns raised in his letter and assured him that the company "is taking every step possible to safely return the MAX to service."

It said it had produced the document containing a former Boeing employee's statements to the appropriate investigating authority earlier this year, and brought it to the attention of the Department of Transportation on Thursday.

Boeing has been cooperating with the House of Representatives Transportation & Infrastructure Committee's probe into the 737 MAX and will continue to do so in investigations by U.S. authorities, the company said.

Boeing turned the documents over to the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI in February, one source said.

Federal prosecutors aided by the FBI, the Department of Transportation's inspector general and several blue-ribbon panels are investigating the 737 MAX's certification. And the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee confirmed it will question Muilenburg at an Oct. 29 hearing, one day before a House of Representatives panel is scheduled to question him.

The 737 MAX has been grounded worldwide since March, forcing more than 100 daily flight cancellations at large U.S operators of the aircraft such as Southwest Airlines (NYSE:LUV) Co and American Airlines (NASDAQ:AAL), and eroding their profits.

Boeing has said the grounding has already cost it at least $8 billion.

Its shares fell 6.8% to close at $344.00, before edging up 1.4% after hours.


Forkner said in one text message, "I basically lied to the regulators (unknowingly)." The other employee responded that "it wasn't a lie, no one told us that was the case" of an issue with MCAS.

Forkner responded soon after: "Granted I suck at flying, but even this was egregious." At one point Forkner said "there are still some real fundamental issues" in the simulator.

In the exchange, Forkner said he was writing while "drinking icy cold gray goose."

"If you read the whole chat, it is obvious that there was no 'lie,'" Forkner's lawyer David Gerger said by email on Friday.

"The simulator was not reading right and had to be fixed to fly like the real plane. Mark's career – at Air Force, at FAA, and at Boeing – was about safety. And based on everything he knew, he absolutely thought this plane was safe."

Forkner and his colleague allude to technical problems with the simulator itself, which one former Boeing test pilot said may have contributed in some way to Forkner's observations and conclusions of MCAS' behavior.

In a separate batch of emails, released by the FAA on Friday, Forkner said in November 2016 that he was working on "jedi-mind tricking regulators into accepting the training that I got accepted by FAA."

DeFazio, the House committee chair, said such "tricks and boasting" indicates "improper coziness between the regulator and the regulated."

Forkner is no longer employed by Boeing. The Seattle Times reported in September that he repeatedly invoked his Fifth Amendment right to not turn over documents subpoenaed by the Justice Department.

The FAA reiterated that it is "following a thorough process, not a prescribed timeline, for returning the Boeing 737 MAX to passenger service. The agency will lift the grounding order only after we have determined the aircraft is safe."

Boeing has been revising the 737 MAX software as part of its efforts to win fresh approval for the jet to fly again.

Southwest, the world's largest operators of the 737 MAX, said in a statement it had been unaware of the messages but continued to work with the FAA and Boeing to safely return the aircraft to service.

The Southwest pilots union, which has filed a lawsuit against Boeing for lost wages during the grounding, said in a statement that the document was "more evidence that Boeing misled pilots, government regulators and other aviation experts about the safety of the 737 MAX."

"As pilots, we have to be able to trust Boeing to truthfully disclose the information we need to safely operate our aircraft. In the case of the 737 MAX, that absolutely did not happen," Southwest Airlines Pilots Association President Jon Weaks said.

Boeing pilots' messages on 737 MAX safety raise new questions

Related Articles

Add a Comment

Comment Guidelines

We encourage you to use comments to engage with other users, share your perspective and ask questions of authors and each other. However, in order to maintain the high level of discourse we’ve all come to value and expect, please keep the following criteria in mind:  

  •            Enrich the conversation, don’t trash it.

  •           Stay focused and on track. Only post material that’s relevant to the topic being discussed. 

  •           Be respectful. Even negative opinions can be framed positively and diplomatically. Avoid profanity, slander or personal attacks directed at an author or another user. Racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination will not be tolerated.

  • Use standard writing style. Include punctuation and upper and lower cases. Comments that are written in all caps and contain excessive use of symbols will be removed.
  • NOTE: Spam and/or promotional messages and comments containing links will be removed. Phone numbers, email addresses, links to personal or business websites, Skype/Telegram/WhatsApp etc. addresses (including links to groups) will also be removed; self-promotional material or business-related solicitations or PR (ie, contact me for signals/advice etc.), and/or any other comment that contains personal contact specifcs or advertising will be removed as well. In addition, any of the above-mentioned violations may result in suspension of your account.
  • Doxxing. We do not allow any sharing of private or personal contact or other information about any individual or organization. This will result in immediate suspension of the commentor and his or her account.
  • Don’t monopolize the conversation. We appreciate passion and conviction, but we also strongly believe in giving everyone a chance to air their point of view. Therefore, in addition to civil interaction, we expect commenters to offer their opinions succinctly and thoughtfully, but not so repeatedly that others are annoyed or offended. If we receive complaints about individuals who take over a thread or forum, we reserve the right to ban them from the site, without recourse.
  • Only English comments will be allowed.

Perpetrators of spam or abuse will be deleted from the site and prohibited from future registration at’s discretion.

Write your thoughts here
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
Post also to:
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Thanks for your comment. Please note that all comments are pending until approved by our moderators. It may therefore take some time before it appears on our website.
Comments (3)
Chris Sundo
Chris Sundo Oct 19, 2019 12:36AM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This comment has already been saved in your Saved Items
Deja vue statements and words: "is taking every step possible to safely ..---"is similar to "we are taking harassment ... very seriously.."-- It's all this political nonsense to cover-up and effectively not make any changes.
Anthony Anthony
Anthony Anthony Oct 18, 2019 7:01PM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This comment has already been saved in your Saved Items
one of these days someone will find MUCH more serious design issues with airbus. just wait and see.
Andrew Hook
Andrew Hook Oct 18, 2019 7:01PM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This comment has already been saved in your Saved Items
Maybe but for now it is Boeing who killed 346 peoples because of misleading aviation authority. So you like others MAGA, we should let Boeing fly the MAXX just because it was non Americans peoples who were killed. G2FY
Eloy Rodrigo
Eloy Rodrigo Oct 18, 2019 3:57PM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This comment has already been saved in your Saved Items
Going to bankruptcy
Andrew Hook
Andrew Hook Oct 18, 2019 3:57PM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This comment has already been saved in your Saved Items
No worries, Pentagon will finance them as usual ordering missile, drones and financing R&D for new weapon = susbsinding the company. But don't say it too loud Airbus is the only one who get state funding. Lol
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Add Chart to Comment
Confirm Block

Are you sure you want to block %USER_NAME%?

By doing so, you and %USER_NAME% will not be able to see any of each other's's posts.

%USER_NAME% was successfully added to your Block List

Since you’ve just unblocked this person, you must wait 48 hours before renewing the block.

Report this comment

I feel that this comment is:

Comment flagged

Thank You!

Your report has been sent to our moderators for review
Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.
Continue with Google
Sign up with Email