FAA probes suspect titanium supply used in Airbus, Boeing jets

Boeing 737 production in Seattle. Stock image.

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating how titanium with potentially falsified records made its way from an obscure Chinese producer onto commercial jets manufactured by Airbus SE and Boeing Co.

The titanium was used in parts made by suppliers including Spirit AeroSystems Holdings Inc., which said in a statement that the material entered the supply chain through documents that had been counterfeited.

“When this was identified, all suspect parts were quarantined and removed from Spirit production,” said Joe Buccino, a spokesperson for Spirit. “More than 1,000 tests have been completed to confirm the mechanical and metallurgical properties of the affected material to ensure continued airworthiness.”

The industry has long been trying to get a handle on unauthorized parts entering the aviation supply chain. Last year, Bloomberg News uncovered a scandal surrounding a little-known UK company that had sold fake aircraft parts with false documentation that were fitted onto jetliners around the world.

The New York Times reported on the titanium investigation earlier on Friday. The suspect titanium was used in parts made for Boeing’s 737 Max and 787 Dreamliner jets, as well as the Airbus A220 model manufactured between 2019 and 2023, the Times reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

According to the report, the issue originated with a batch of the metal from a Chinese producer. After the titanium spread to aerospace suppliers, some noticed that certificates that came with the metal looked falsified, the New York Times said.

The FAA said in a statement that Boeing voluntarily disclosed that it had procured material through a distributor who may have provided falsified or incorrect records. The regulator said it’s “investigating the scope and impact of the issue.”

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency said it is also conducting an investigation after being informed of an issue tracing titanium materials through its partner aviation authority in Italy. The agency has no evidence that the issue poses a safety risk to the fleet, it said.

EASA “will investigate further the root cause of the document traceability issue and continues to monitor closely any new developments that could lead to a potential unsafe condition in the fleet,” EASA spokesperson Janet Northcote said in the statement.

Boeing said it’s removing any affected parts on airplanes prior to delivery and that its in-service fleet can continue to fly safely.

“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,” the company said in a statement.

An Airbus spokesman said the company was aware of the situation and numerous tests performed on parts coming from the same source of supply had shown that the A220’s airworthiness remains intact.

Every component and part used by the aviation industry relies on verified provenance to ensure aircraft safety and structural integrity. The Times report said that the titanium in question was supplied by an unnamed Chinese supplier using documentation forged to show it had originated from a reputed Chinese supplier called Baoji Titanium Industry.

The Aviation Supply Chain Integrity Coalition, which includes representatives from Boeing and Airbus and was formed in response to the 2023 scandal, has been studying how to prevent unauthorized parts from entering the aviation supply chain. The coalition’s co-chair John Porcari said at a conference in Washington this week that the group had completed the research phase for a report it plans to release this fall that will contain recommendations for addressing the problem.

A spokesperson for the coalition said the group’s initial focus is on the propulsion supply chain but that the recommendations in the upcoming report could be used across the aviation industry.

(By Siddharth Philip and Allyson Versprille)


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