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FAA is investigating titanium with false documentation used in passenger planes

Aerospace manufacturers say they are removing affected components from the supply chain.
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Posted at 9:04 PM, Jun 14, 2024

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating how parts made with falsely documented titanium ended up on Airbus and Boeing passenger planes.

The issue was first reported by the New York Times, which reported that the problem was discovered when corroded holes were found in the material.

The paper reported that Spirit AeroSystems, which manufactures parts for the two major planemakers, said that the titanium entered the supply chain with counterfeit documentation. Spirit has since removed parts from production.

The FAA is right now looking into what kind of hazards, if any, are posed by the material's usage and it will be the job of regulators to figure out if any action needs to be taken toward planes with this material in use.

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In a statement to Scripps News, the FAA wrote that it "is investigating the scope and impact of the issue through our Continued Operational Safety process."

Both Airbus and Boeing say tests so far indicate that there are no issues, but Boeing is removing impacted parts that haven't been delivered to customers yet.

Boeing said in a statement to Scripps News:

"This industry-wide issue affects some shipments of titanium received by a limited set of suppliers, and tests performed to date have indicated that the correct titanium alloy was used. To ensure compliance, we are removing any affected parts on airplanes prior to delivery. Our analysis shows the in-service fleet can continue to fly safely."

The aerospace supply chain is complex. Dak Hardwick, vice president of international affairs at the Aerospace Industry Association, says his organization, which represents original equipment manufacturers and suppliers, develops standards that all parts need to meet, called the National Aerospace Standards.

"It's so incredible the types of science that goes into the parts and components, again, having to ensure that they meet aerospace grade and they meet certain tolerances that frankly, not a lot of sectors have to meet," said Hardwick.

He says that when an issue along the supply chain occurs there is great incentive to report to regulators and make sure the problem is found and taken care of as quickly as possible.

"The aerospace sector values the reputation it's developed over 120 years of flying and it self-corrects when there are challenges in the system," he said.

Hardwick says the relationship between suppliers and manufacturers is crucial in fixing these issues.

"They understand that their reputation is on the line when something happens, and they move to correct almost immediately," he said.

This is coming at a time of great scrutiny in the aerospace industry as Boeing has been working to fix issues with its safety culture after a door plug blew off a 737 Max in January. Airbus, meanwhile, has been dealing with engine difficulties.

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