Fake airline engine parts have been discovered on 126 jet engines on older Boeing 737 and Airbus 320 aircraft, and that number is sure to increase due to a multi-year fraud involving London-based airline parts distributor AOG Technics Ltd.
All major U.S. airlines, including United Airlines, American Airlines, Delta, and Southwest, as well as several international carriers have admitted to discovering unapproved airline parts sourced from AOG in their aircraft, and have replaced or are in the process of replacing these parts.
The fraud was discovered in spring 2023, when TAP Air Portugal engineers noticed that a replacement part on a CFM56 engine turbine that was supposed to have been new when installed, showed uncharacteristic signs of wear. TAP alerted Safran SA, the French aerospace company that, together with General Electric, produces CFM engines. Safran's research uncovered forged paperwork: the signature wasn't from an actual Safran employee, and the reference and purchase order numbers didn't match actual Safran reference and order numbers.
Per Bloomberg, thousands of parts with falsified documentation have been purchased by airlines, distributors, and maintenance crews around the world and been installed in CFM56 engines, currently the most widely flown aircraft engine.
Neither the FAA nor the European Union Aviation Safety Agency regulate parts suppliers. The FAA asks airlines to review their suppliers, and third party maintenance companies have the responsibility to ensure all components installed on an aircraft are approved, legitimate parts, but the FAA itself does not audit or inspect parts as it lacks the resources to do so. There is no centralized repository of airline parts, making airline part sourcing and purchasing vulnerable to fraud and falsified documentation. “If people want to cheat, it's going to be hard to stop them,” noted Tim Zemanovic, who owns a company that sells recycled aircraft parts.
Some of AOG's forged documents date back to 2018, although the jump in AOG's reported profits from GBP 22,042 in 2019 to GBP 2.2 million in 2020 reflects the jump to thousands of jet-engine parts with forged documents. CFM (Safran/GE) itself wasn't immune: it discovered that it had installed AOG parts in 16 CFM56 engines. The parts were represented as brand new, but they showed signs of corrosion and welding that indicated they were in fact used and repaired parts.
While so far there haven't been any aircraft emergencies due to the AOG scam, passengers who have a choice of flights may want to opt for a newer aircraft that doesn't involve an older generation A320 or Boeing 737. Of course, there are equipment swaps, so there's no guarantee that the aircraft planned for the flight will remain the same on the day of the flight.
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