A Chinese whistleblower who worked for an aviation parts supplier for Boeing alleges bogus and potentially dangerous components made by third-party companies are being installed in commercial aircraft, posing a serious safety risk to the general public around the globe.
Charles Shi, a former quality control inspector for Moog Aircraft, also claims that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is aware of the problem but hasn’t taken any actions to correct it.
Mr. Shi’s concerns, formally documented in a March 2016 complaint with the FAA, have drawn more attention since the deadly crashes of two Boeing 737 Max 8 jets in Indonesia and Ethiopia. Mr. Shi claims the substandard, unapproved parts have been installed in Boeing 777 and 737 planes that are still in service.
Mr. Shi inspected airplane parts at Moog from 2006 to 2016. During that time, he discovered parts the company outsourced to another Chinese supplier had been made with inferior materials and were not “baked” long enough to remove all the hydrogen. He said this made the parts thin and brittle and prone to fail.
An NBC Bay Area investigation found that the National Transportation Security Board (NTSB) has linked bogus airplane parts to at least 32 general aviation crashes involving 11 or more deaths since 2011. Although these parts haven’t been blamed for any commercial airplane crashes, government records show 2,868 incidents of substandard unapproved parts or “SUPs” discovered on commercial planes flown by almost every airline.
Mr. Shi says the problem is worse than the FAA acknowledges.
According to NBC Bay Area, documents from an FAA whistleblower investigation confirm that hundreds of parts used on Boeing planes were manufactured in violation of FAA standards and that documents were “fabricated” by a third-party Chinese supplier to hide the violation. But even knowing this, the FAA allowed Boeing to install the parts “as is.” Planes containing these parts continue to operate.
Mr. Shi’s allegations could carry more weight now that both Boeing and the FAA have fallen under scrutiny for their failure to ground Boeing 737 Max 8 jets after two deadly 737 crashes left 346 people dead. Both Boeing and the FAA maintained the 737 Max 8 planes were safe and that no new guidance was necessary for operators of the aircraft. They finally relented, however, after mounting outcry from U.S. lawmakers, government officials, and others. By the time the U.S. acted, governments around the world had already grounded their 737 Max airplanes.
According to The Epoch Times, of greatest concern to Mr. Shi are that many of the parts made by third-party Moog supplier Suzhou New Hongji Precision Parts Co. (NHJ) are “safety sensitive” and one is “safety critical.”
NHJ part number P665A0039–02 is the blocking or mounting lug of the Boeing 737’s spoiler – a “Single Point Of Failure (SPOF)” part. “If this part fails, the entire system will fail, which may cause a fatal accident,” The Epoch Times reports.
Rep. Peter DeFazio, (D-Ore.), a ranking member of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has vowed to crack down on the bogus airplane parts.
“We really need to pay a lot more attention to this,” Rep. DeFazio told NBC Bay Area. He said there needs to be a system that shows who manufactured parts and a way to track them throughout their life, including when they are “ultimately destroyed at the end so they can’t be snuck back into the part stream.”
“I don’t understand what’s going on at the FAA. I asked for that report to see if we have made progress in the last 20 years, and it appears that very little has been made,” Rep. DeFazio told NBC Bay Area. “One critical component that isn’t up to manufacturer’s standards could take down a plane mid-air.”
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General and the Department of Justice continue to investigate Boeing for potential criminal conduct in the wake of the deadly 737 Max 8 crashes.