Major US airlines, including United, American, Southwest, and Delta, are facing a potential crisis as they scramble to inspect their fleets and potentially ground planes. This comes after it was revealed that a parts supplier for the most widely used commercial jet engine may have been involved in widespread safety certification fraud. The Wall Street Journal reported that a parts broker called AOG Technics, based in the UK, is suspected of using potentially forged documentation, which has put aircraft safety at risk.
General Electric, a major airplane equipment manufacturer, along with its engine manufacturing partner Safran and their joint venture CFM International, has filed a lawsuit against AOG Technics. They claim that the company’s actions have made it impossible for operators to verify the airworthiness of their engines.
The CFM56 engine, which is widely used by commercial airlines, has allegedly been supplied with thousands of fraudulently documented parts by AOG Technics. The European Union Aviation Safety Agency has confirmed that numerous safety certificates for parts supplied by AOG Technics were forged. In each case, the purported manufacturer of the parts denied producing the certificate or the part.
Although there have been no reports of problems resulting from the suspected unapproved parts, the regulator has ordered operators to quarantine any parts backed by false documentation. AOG Technics has so far refused to provide details on the origin and sales of dubious parts, despite a court deadline.
The scale of AOG’s alleged fraudulent activities has raised concerns within the industry. Safran CEO Olivier Andries expressed surprise that a phantom company could be allowed to supply spare parts with false certification documents.
Some US airlines have already found AOG parts in their engines. United Airlines confirmed the presence of AOG parts in the engines of two planes, but stated that the engines had been replaced and put back into service. Southwest Airlines had also discovered and replaced the offending parts in one engine. American Airlines reportedly took a small number of aircraft out of service to replace uncertified components. Delta Airlines claimed that fewer than 1% of its engines were affected, but stated that those engines had been grounded and the questionable parts removed.
So far, around 100 aircraft have been publicly acknowledged as affected. However, many airlines are waiting to understand their potential exposure before speaking up. Replacing the parts could take weeks to months of downtime per engine, according to an aerospace analyst interviewed by the Wall Street Journal.
This situation has highlighted the need for stricter oversight and regulation in the aviation industry to ensure the safety and airworthiness of aircraft. Airline operators must be vigilant in verifying the authenticity of parts and documentation to protect the millions of passengers who rely on their services.