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President of Southwest's pilots association calls out Boeing over reported text messages

“We have to be able to trust Boeing to truthfully disclose the information we need to safely operate our aircraft,” said Capt. John Weaks.
Credit: AP
FILE - In this Wednesday, March 13, 2019, file photo, a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 jet flies over Mesa, Ariz., en route to Phoenix's Sky Harbor International Airport. Pilot-union leaders at Southwest Airlines say it could be February or March 2020 before their airline resumes flights using the Boeing 737 Max. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

The president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association said on Friday “We have to be able to trust Boeing to truthfully disclose the information we need to safely operate our aircraft,” but “in the case of the 737 MAX, that absolutely did not happen.” 

Captain John Weaks called out Boeing after Reuters first reported text messages from 2016 showed high-level Boeing employees knew about problems with the plane’s new flight control system. 

RELATED: Boeing pilot told co-worker about problems with 737 Max system in 2016

RELATED: Worried about flying on a 737 Max? You may not have a lot of options

Boeing turned over those messages to federal regulators this week, who called them “concerning.”

“The FAA’s announcement echoes the very serious concerns at the center of SWAPA’s lawsuit, and this is more evidence that Boeing misled pilots, government regulators and other aviation experts about the safety of the 737 MAX,” Captain Weaks wrote in a statement for the SWAPA. “It is clear that the company’s negligence and fraud put the flying public at risk,” Weaks wrote.

In the three-year-old text messages, senior pilot Mark Forkner told a Boeing co-worker that he experienced problems with the MCAS during a flight simulator session. MCAS was designed, in part, to prevent the MAX from stalling in certain situations.

In additional messages, Forkner said, “So I basically lied to the regulators (unknowingly) about MCAS.”

On Friday, FAA chief Steve Dickson demanded Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg explain why the company waited several months before telling regulators about the discovery of the messages.

The Associated Press reported Friday that Forkner had asked FAA about removing mention of MCAS from the pilot's manual for the Max. FAA allowed Boeing to do so, and most pilots did not know about MCAS until after the first crash in Indonesia, in October 2018. The plane has been grounded worldwide since March after the second crash, in Ethiopia.

Forkner no longer works for Boeing. In fact, the SWAPA confirms Mark Forkner now is on the Master Seniority of Southwest Airlines Pilots. 

Dallas-based Southwest Airlines is the largest operator of the 737 MAX, which has been grounded worldwide since March.

WFAA asked Southwest Airlines whether Forkner raised concerns about the MCAS after joining the company. A spokesperson for Southwest Airlines did not answer that question, but said, in part, “Southwest remains in close contact with the FAA and Boeing, cooperating in our shared pursuit of Safety as work continues to return the MAX aircraft to service.”

Boeing said in a statement that it is cooperating with the congressional investigation into the MAX.

As that investigation continues and Boeing reviews the flight-control system, the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association has an active lawsuit against Boeing over alleged lost wages as a result of the MAX service delays.

Southwest Airlines has the 737 MAX out of service until February 2020.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.