FAA turns over emails from former Boeing 737 pilot

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Friday turned over 10 pages of emails to Congress from a former chief technical pilot on the Boeing 737 MAX that disclosed new details of the company’s efforts to win approval from regulators around the world and drew the ire of a top Democratic lawmaker.

FILE PHOTO: An aerial photo shows Boeing 737 MAX aircraft at Boeing facilities at the Grant County International Airport in Moses Lake, Washington, September 16, 2019. REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson

The emails confirm Mark Forkner told the FAA in January 2017 that the company would delete references to a key safety system known as MCAS from the operator’s manual “because it is outside the normal operating envelope.”

A November 2016 email from Forkner to someone in the FAA said he was working to “jedi-mind tricking regulators into accepting the training that I got accepted by FAA.”

Earlier Friday, the FAA disclosed to Congress instant messages from Forkner about the 737 MAX suggested more concerns about MCAS than was previously known and that Boeing may have misled the FAA.

Representative Peter DeFazio, who chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, wrote U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao late Friday asking her to “fully cooperate with the committee’s outstanding request for records and provide unredacted emails immediately.”

DeFazio said in the letter it was “disturbing” that emails from Forkner to an FAA employee equated the certification process for the 737 MAX with “jedi-mind” tricks and boasting that the Boeing employee “usually get[s] what I want.”

DeFazio said the email suggested “improper coziness between the regulator and the regulated.”

He wants the department to provide “unredacted emails so that we can assess these emails in their full context.”

In April, the committee sought emails related to the 737 MAX and in May FAA officials acknowledged they had identified an estimated 2,600 responsive emails from the FAA’s Aircraft Evaluation Group in Seattle alone.

“They also indicated that they had identified a fuller body of more than 500,000 emails responsive to the committee’s request. Until this morning, the FAA had only delivered a few hundred emails to the committee, although it had delivered tens of thousands of responsive documents,” DeFazio said.

A lawyer for Forkner, David Gerger, said in an e-mail to Reuters on Friday that “based on everything he knew, he absolutely thought this plane was safe.”

Boeing said in an a statement that it was cooperating and providing documents to Congress.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chris Reese and Daniel Wallis