The aviation industry has been rocked by reports that thousands of jet engine parts with fraudulent safety certificates have been installed on passenger planes.
Major airlines including American Airlines, United Airlines and Southwest Airlines have pulled planes from their fleets as investigations into the potentially catastrophic errors continue.
The scandal has centered on a shady aircraft parts supplier called AOG Technics, which allegedly mass-produced fake safety certificates to sell its engine parts to airlines.
AOG Technics has also faced allegations that it faked employees and used stock photos of fictitious staffers on LinkedIn, according to Bloomberg. Attempts to contact the company were unsuccessful.
With components from the problematic company found in 126 engines from several airlines so far, questions are being raised about the effectiveness of the aviation industry’s safety oversight measures.
The allegedly defective safety certificates were installed in at least 126 Boeing and Airbus engines from various airlines. Pictured: An Airbus A320 NEO engine at a Safran factory in France, 2018
The scandal has rocked the aviation industry, with parts ranging from small nuts and bolts to all-important turbine blades potentially failing. Pictured: production of parts for an Airbus A320 wing
American Airlines, United Airlines and Southwest Airlines have retired aircraft from their rosters, including the airline industry’s favorite Boeing 737 jets (pictured)
Airline parts are believed to undergo rigorous safety testing to ensure they are ‘airworthy’, with each part supplied with a certificate that can be used to trace the part’s origin and inspection data.
But the Federal Aviation Administration, as well as investigators in Europe, have alleged that AOG Technics falsified its documentation, a problem with potentially disastrous consequences in the event of a defective part.
The most affected engine model appeared to be a CFM56, which, at over 33,900, alarmingly holds the record for the most engines ever sold to airlines.
It is currently being installed on countless aircraft around the world, most notably Boeing’s predecessor to the 737 MAX and the first version of the Airbus A320.
Both jets are very common on flights around the world every day.
The affected engine parts range from small parts such as screws and bolts to parts essential to jet aircraft propulsion, such as turbine blades.
As investigations into the possible scheme continued, it emerged that dozens of engines had been inadvertently made by General Electric in a joint venture with Safran, which has since filed a lawsuit against AOG Technics.
The GE engines were reportedly installed during maintenance work and then found their way into Boeing and Airbus aircraft.
After American Airlines, United Airlines and Southwest Airlines removed planes from their schedules, Delta Airlines said Monday it had also removed some engines from service.
Affected airlines have said they quickly identified engines certified by AOG Technics, which make up only a fraction of their total numbers, and claim passenger safety has not been compromised.
But according to the lawsuit filed by GE and Safran, the aviation parts supplier used a massive counterfeiting scheme to sell its parts to airlines.
The most affected engine model appeared to be a CFM56 (pictured), which, at over 33,900, alarmingly holds the record for the most engines ever sold to airlines.
In Britain, where the company lists its address, a judge this week ordered the company to hand over its parts sales documents, and the full extent of the scandal could grow as the records are reviewed.
Before the analysis began Wednesday, airlines said they had found 16 engines in their stores and 110 in separate facilities equipped with AOG Technics parts.
According to the Wall Street Journalthe company acts as a middleman in the aviation industry by acquiring parts before selling them to maintenance and repair shops.
It was founded in 2015, but several troubling business practices have been highlighted recently, including that there is reportedly no record of the company ever receiving approval for its components.
Court documents have also revealed that the company’s founder, Jose Zamora Yrala, is its sole director and shareholder, and that dubious LinkedIn profiles are allegedly linked to the company using aliases and stock profile photos.
“It is a bit strange that a ghost company is allowed to supply spare parts with false certification documents,” Safran CEO Olivier Andriès told reporters last month.
The controversy has highlighted the complex nature of the aviation industry. Pictured: The wheel arch of the first Boeing 737 MAX 7 aircraft as it sits on the tarmac outside the Boeing factory on February 5, 2018
Allegedly fictitious safety certificates were placed on critical parts of an aircraft
In their bombshell lawsuit, GE and Safran, assisted by their joint venture CFM International, say they were initially notified of the crisis in June after it was discovered by TAP Air Portugal’s engineering and maintenance teams.
They allege that AOG Technics has “compromised the safety of aircraft and made it impossible for operators who purchased these parts to verify the airworthiness of their engines.”
“All counterfeit parts should be urgently identified and the relevant airlines notified,” the lawsuit adds, warning that the stress engines shutting down during a flight, coupled with the hundreds of lives in their hands, means every route that even a small part can fail. catastrophic.
GE emphasized that safety is the priority in filing the lawsuit and reportedly told investors not to expect the issue to have any financial impact on the company.
The lawsuit also raises allegations that AOG Technics used stock photos and possibly impersonated employees online.
“Thus, there are legitimate questions about whether the profiles were fabricated and whether the profiled employees actually exist,” the lawsuit alleges.
The WJ reported that it visited the company’s listed address in London, near Buckingham Palace, where reception and security staff said they had never heard of the company.
A representative from the building that leases the spaces told the outlet that AOG Technics was a virtual customer and did not own any space at the location.
“If you put a part in an airplane engine, you have to be confident that it’s legitimate,” said Ron Epstein, an aerospace analyst at Bank of America. ‘Someone has found a loophole in the law. The system must guard against this.’