CFM International has notified CFM56 customers, MRO providers, and regulators about several cases of parts brokers offering used CFM56 high-pressure turbine (HPT) blades with falsified records that misrepresent the parts’ service histories.
CFM, a GE-Safran/Snecma joint venture, has seen at least eight sets of blades with fake records in recent months, alerts sent to its customers reveal. The most-recent alert went out in early May, adding an eighth set to seven flagged in an alert sent earlier this year.
CFM and GE discovered issues with the parts’ paperwork while conducting routine due diligence after the blade sets—among the most-expensive engine spares available—were offered for sale to CFM’s used materials division.
GE, including its CFM business, is the industry’s largest consumer of used engine parts, primarily to feed its shops that maintain customer engines under increasingly popular power-by-the-hour agreements. As the original equipment manufacturer (OEM), it can cross-reference parts records with original-build standards and full-engine in-service records of its engines, and turn up discrepancies.
In these cases, GE and CFM found myriad anomalies, including “engine-data submittal” records sourced to CFM that did not match documents issued by the manufacturer; shop visit records attributed to both GE Engine Services and Snecma that were not issued by the MRO providers; falsified 8130-3 airworthiness release forms; and records tracing the blades back to airlines that never operated them.
The records-falsification efforts mixed sophistication with amateurism, GE paperwork sent to FAA shows. One set of shop records lists a real Snecma Services employee as an authorized approver, but the signature on the forms does not match the employee’s verified signature. The same set of records uses the wrong Snecma Services logo. The documents also claim the blades in question were once installed on an engine operated by Aerolineas Argentinas, but GE verified through its own records that the engine serial number listed never flew on any of the carrier’s aircraft.
“CFM is providing this information to operators, MRO providers and brokers due to concerns that operating hours and cycles listed on the paperwork associated with these HPT blades may misrepresent the actual operating hours and cycles accumulated on these blades,” the manufacturer explained in an alert sent to customers.
In one case, CFM’s own documentation showed that a set of blades had 31,000 hr. and 4,207 cycles at its engine’s first shop visit in 2006. The allegedly current paperwork now accompanying the blades lists just 2,600 hr. and 482 cycles since the parts entered service.
Each of the eight blade sets flagged lists its documentation as coming from one of two parts vendors: Turbine Airfoil Management (TEAM) International or JCF International. TEAM’s name is on the records of the first seven sets uncovered, while JCF is referenced on the most recent set.
John Ferina, JCF’s founder, confirmed that TEAM is one of his vendors.
“I am another victim to this unfortunate situation,” he told Aviation Daily. “It is even more unfortunate that aftermarket parts sales companies like my own do not have the ability to verify the trace information to this level and are too often get holding the bag.”
TEAM could not be reached for comment.
One set of suspect blades carries part no. 1957M10P01, which can be installed on CFM56-5Bs and CFM56-7Bs, and the rest are part no. 2080M81P01, which are for CFM56-5Bs and CFM56-5Cs. A full set includes 80 blades—enough for one engine—and retails for about $1 million new. Seven of the sets with falsified records contain 80 blades each, while the eighth has 61.
CFM and GE filed suspected unapproved parts (SUPS) paperwork with FAA on all eight sets.
“GE Aviation and CFM Materials have various records reviews in place that enabled us to uncover the discrepancies,” GE said. “We were proactive in reporting the issue via the SUPS process and in contacting the FAA chief counsel’s office, and sharing what we know with customers and our customer representatives, to make sure there is adequate awareness of the issue.”
FAA confirmed that it is “investigating” the issue, but offered no details.
Used parts are becoming more prominent in airline MRO strategies as operators look for ways to lower costs without sacrificing reliability. The used-parts market is around $3.5 billion today, with engine parts accounting for 60% of the total, data compiled by ICF International show (Aviation Daily, April 22, 2014).
Despite the rise in used parts demand and the brazen efforts to fake records for some of the most expensive parts on one of the industry’s most popular engines, the issue does not point to a rise in fraudulent parts trading. FAA has not released any SUPS notices in 2015. In the previous two years—covering parts used industry-wide, not just in commercial operations—it released a total of 14, or one more than it issued in 2012.