Guarding Against Unapproved Parts

Recent incidents involving falsified records for key components underscores—again—the need to be ever vigilant.

Aircraft and engine retirements and tear-downs are slowing down a bit, but the demand for used serviceable material remains strong because operators have become more sophisticated in their asset management practices. Most are now better balancing how money is spent across an asset’s life cycle.

Sean Broderick’s article on GE and CFM International discovering that falsified records were supplied for at least eight sets of used CFM56 turbine blades, however, spotlights the need for quality and traceability safeguards.

While specific details are still being verified by the FAA, it appears that at least one company, JCF International, went out of business because of these blades. JCF says it acquired a set from Turbine Airfoil Management (TEAM) International and sent the blades to GE for repair. Everything appeared to be proceeding normally, until the falsified records were uncovered. TEAM did not respond to requests for comment.

How can companies prevent this from happening to them? There are two big red flags: price and availability.

“If you’re getting a deal that sounds like it’s too good to be true, it probably is,” says Josh Abelson, AeroTurbine’s senior vice president. “If a part that is rarely available suddenly is, and for a good price, there is something wrong.”

The hottest parts on the market at the moment are for the V2500-A5 and CFM56-7B—the CFM56-5B ranks high, too, because of its interchangeability with the -7B, says Abelson. So if you’re a small- or medium-sized company and are offered a set of -7B blades at a great price, caveat emptor. Ask yourself: Why didn’t a larger MRO or airline snap them up if the deal is so attractive? Keep your guard up.

Abelson cautions that a company can have the best quality and vendor management systems possible but must have the discipline to monitor the setup frequently. “If you look at the investment that most of the big companies have made, it is in quality and records because those are the cornerstones of what we do,” he adds. “We don’t sell parts—we sell paper,” but you get the part, too.

Sarah MacLeod, the Aeronautical Repair Station Association’s executive director, emphasizes that “no amount of paperwork makes a part airworthy. None!” She says the best defense against forged paperwork is a staff of educated technicians. Make sure they can identify the correct parts, understand configuration control and how parts work within systems, and know the regulations. “Constantly train” because when a technician or purchasing agent is not up to speed, “you’re exposed to the highest degree of risk,” says MacLeod.

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