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FAA investigating how titanium parts with falsified records wound up in Boeing and Airbus planes

Boeing and Airbus declined to say how many planes were flying with parts made from the undocumented titanium.

(AP) — Federal regulators are investigating how parts made with titanium that was sold with falsified quality documentation wound up in Boeing and Airbus passenger jets that were built in recent years.

Boeing and Airbus said Friday that planes containing the parts are safe to fly, but Boeing said it was removing affected parts from planes that haven’t been delivered yet to airline customers.

It will be up to regulators including the Federal Aviation Administration to decide whether any work needs to be done to planes that are already carrying passengers.

The FAA said it is “investigating the scope and impact of the issue.” The agency said Boeing reported the problem covering material from a distributor “who may have falsified or provided incorrect records.” The FAA did not name the distributor.

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Boeing and Airbus declined to say how many planes were flying with parts made from the undocumented titanium.

Spirit AeroSystems, which makes fuselages for Boeing planes and wings for Airbus jets, reported the falsified documents.

“This is about titanium that has entered the supply system via documents that have been counterfeited," Spirit spokesperson Joe Buccino said. “When this was identified, all suspect parts were quarantined and removed from Spirit production.”

Buccino said more than 1,000 tests have been conducted on the material "to ensure continued airworthiness.”

The New York Times first reported the FAA investigation. The newspaper said a parts supplier found small holes in the material from corrosion.

The aerospace supply chain is a global one. The titanium came from a supplier in China starting around 2019 and was sold to several companies that make components that Spirit Aerosystems uses in its work for Boeing and Airbus, according to two people familiar with the situation. They spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing investigation.

The New York Times reported that an Italian company, Titanium International Group, noticed that the material looked different from previous supplies and determined that paperwork accompanying the titanium seemed inauthentic. A general manager told the newspaper that the company was cooperating with authorities and could not provide additional information.

The paperwork, called a statement of conformity, describes the part or material, how it was made and where it comes from. It is designed to ensure that parts comply with FAA standards for quality.

Titanium alloys have been used for decades in aircraft production because of their light weight, strength and resistance to corrosion and high temperatures. They are used in airframes, landing gear and other parts.

Boeing said tests indicate that the parts were made from the correct titanium alloy, which raised questions about why the documentation was falsified. The company, based in Arlington, Virginia, said it buys most of the titanium it uses directly from other sources, and that supply is not affected by the documentation issue.

Boeing said it was removing affected parts on planes before delivering them to airlines. “Our analysis shows the in-service fleet can continue to fly safely,” the company said. It did not say which of its aircraft models were affected.

Airbus said the parts wound up on one of its models, the A220, a relatively small airliner that is used on shorter routes.

“Numerous tests have been performed on parts coming from the same source of supply,” said Airbus, which has its main offices and assembly plant in France. “They show that the A220’s airworthiness remains intact.”

Officials said the affected parts could be replaced when planes undergo scheduled maintenance checks. It would be up to the FAA and its European counterpart to decide whether to order airlines to replace the parts sooner.


By DAVID KOENIG AP Airlines Writer

Categories / Business, Consumers, Travel

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