Supply Chain Matters highlights an ongoing incident involving aircraft engine manufacturers and their allegation that a parts supplier falsified documentation.
Across aerospace and commercial aircraft supply networks, industry regulatory practices require that many major component parts require documentation. That especially applies to aircraft engines.
The purpose is to ensure the air worthiness and safety of a particular aircraft and the assurances that parts are not bogus. Such documentation includes the date and place of original production, a history of ongoing maintenance or required inspections and repair. When the particular engine part undergoes a scheduled refurbishment or major repair, documentation traces such actions and the chain of custody.
UK Supplier Accused of Falsified Documentation
Bloomberg reports that General Electric and Safran, who together are partners in the consortium that design, produce and sometimes maintain CFM International engines, are alleging that a UK based supplier may have practiced large-scale falsification of documents related to thousands of aircraft engine components.
CFM International produces the model CFM56 engine currently being utilized by older Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 aircraft.
What makes this development ever more concerning is the indication that because the supplier has refused to turn over such documentation, the two companies have asked a London court to force this supplier to “hand over documents relating to every single sale of products.”
According to this published Bloomberg report, there is documentary evidence that “thousands of jet engine parts” were sold by this supplier to airlines and to aircraft repair organizations. Reportedly, the EU Aviation Safety Agency suspects “numerous certifications for part supplied by the company were forged.” Some of these parts can reportedly involve components that make-up engine blades. As of last week, a GE lawyer reportedly indicated that as many as 96 engines may be impacted by this investigation and suspicion. The result is that suppliers and airlines are now scrambling to assess the overall fallout from parts allegedly with no origins.
The supplier itself is reportedly indicating that the detail of custody that GE and Safran are seeking is “onerous” while a UK aviation regulator has indicated that the request goes “far beyond what is necessary for public safety considerations.”
Supply Chain Matters Perspectives
When we reviewed this report in our news feed, Supply Chain Matters was taken aback by the fact that in such a regulated industry, the manufacturer has to resort to a legal remedy in order to require a supplier to disclose such information.
While there may be other circumstances and backdrop, the suspicion remains that there may be aircraft engines operating with parts of unknown origin or chain of custody.
Within this industry itself, there have been prior incidents, especially involving military aircraft that had operating engines with bogus parts supplied, some of which led to disaster. Such incidents garnered visibility because of the nature of national defense and the power of governments and associated regulators to crack down on such efforts and investigate the actual origins of engine parts. That is the purpose of these regulations involving origins of parts.
The further notion is that there is proven technologies in asset level digital identification that can marry an RFID or QR code with part genealogy and history.
Once again, an industry dogged by continuous disruption due to either industry wide engine shortages or component quality performance issues must now deal with yet another incident.
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