Four major airlines have grounded 126 passenger jets after they discovered the planes were equipped with unapproved, knockoff parts that came with forged safety certificates. Delta, American, United, and Southwest Airlines were all apparently duped into buying the fake parts and installing them.
The airlines and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency both say the parts were sold by AOG Technics. While that company does sell aircraft parts, the airlines say it falsified the airworthiness documents for the specific parts it sold them. The company then mass-produced forged safety certificates so it could sell the parts.
The knockoff parts range from relatively unimportant screws and bolts to the extremely important turbines in jet engines. This isn’t simply a minor matter like putting aftermarket parts in your Toyota and voiding the warranty. These were passenger jets that were transporting thousands of people and families from point A to point B every year. If any of the fake parts had malfunctioned, it could have resulted in a catastrophe with hundreds of dead passengers.
Airline parts are supposed to go through a rigorous safety testing process to ensure that they are airworthy. Both European investigators and the Federal Aviation Administration say that AOG Technics committed mass forgery of its safety certifications and other documents. It’s unclear at this point whether the company will be fined or sanctioned in any way for the subterfuge, but it seems likely.
Meanwhile, the airlines have been working as quickly as possible to replace the fake parts and get the aircraft back in the air. This debacle calls the airline industry’s oversight processes on safety into question. Fortunately, there were no disasters that resulted from the fake parts this time. Yet if four major airlines were so easily duped this time, what are the odds that this could happen again?