The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating how titanium that appears to have lacked proper certification made its way into Boeing and Airbus passenger planes, according to the agency and companies involved in the manufacturing process.


An Airbus A220 lands at Toulouse-Blagnac airport in 2018, in France. Federal regulators investigate how parts made with counterfeit titanium wound up in some Boeing and Airbus passenger jets that were built in recent years. Frederic Scheiber/Associated Press, file

The titanium was used by Spirit AeroSystems, a key supplier to both Boeing and Airbus, and had counterfeit documents, said Joe Buccino, a Spirit spokesman. The companies issued assurances that the issues have not jeopardized safety.

“More than 1,000 tests have been completed to confirm the mechanical and metallurgical properties of the affected material to ensure continued airworthiness,” Buccino said.

Airbus identified its A220 model as being affected; Boeing declined to say what planes were involved in the issue but said it affected only a small number of parts on any aircraft.

The problem with the titanium, which was first reported by the New York Times, highlights the heightened concern about fake or improperly documented parts entering the aviation supply chain in recent years. Aircraft manufacturers rely on a sprawling network of suppliers, making it difficult to oversee quality. Several manufacturers launched a task force in February to try to better address the issue.

The FAA said in a statement that Boeing disclosed the issue to regulators voluntarily and issued a bulletin to suppliers, reminding them to be alert to the potential of falsified records. The agency said it was investigating the scope of the problem.


While manufacturers said there were no immediate safety concerns, the disclosure of the questionable titanium comes as Boeing’s manufacturing remains under close scrutiny from the FAA and lawmakers after the blowout on an Alaska Airlines 737 Max in January, and accounts from whistleblowers alleging improper manufacturing processes. Boeing chief executive Dave Calhoun is scheduled to testify in front of a Senate panel investigating the issues next week.

The Times reported that an investigation into the titanium came after a supplier found small holes in the metal linked to corrosion. The metal entered the supply chain from China via Italian and Turkish companies, according to a person briefed on the situation who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the ongoing investigation.

Boeing said the titanium was linked to shipments involving a small group of suppliers. Tests of the metal have indicated that the metal was the right kind of titanium for use in aircraft, Boeing said.

“We are removing any affected parts on airplanes prior to delivery,” Boeing said in a statement. “Our analysis shows the in-service fleet can continue to fly safely.”

Airbus said that the airworthiness of its A220 model of single-aisle jets “remains intact” and that “the safety and quality of our aircraft are our most important priorities.”

As the aviation supply chain has grown more sprawling and complex, moving farther away from where the final manufacturing occurs, there has been growing concern in the industry and among regulators about how to ensure that the parts companies are receiving meet standards.

Last year, CFM International and its parent companies, GE Aerospace and Safran Aircraft Engines, accused one of its suppliers, AOG Technics, of selling it thousands of engine parts with forged documents. In September, the FAA issued a formal notification over a part supplied by AOG Technics without the agency’s production approval.

A subsequent review found that fewer than 1% of CFM engines used in older-generation Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 aircraft were affected, but the incident raised alarms in the industry. It led major manufacturers and U.S. airlines, including American and United, to form a supply chain integrity coalition.

The group, formed in February, is co-chaired by Robert Sumwalt, the former chair of the National Transportation Safety Board, and John D. Porcari, a former U.S. deputy secretary of transportation. As part of its work, it launched a 90-day review aimed at finding ways to strengthen existing supply chains, work that will be used to develop recommendations to prevent unapproved parts from finding their way into the supply chain.

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