Counterfeit Chinese Materials Found on Boeing Planes, Investigation Underway


Editor’s Note: Our readers responded strongly to this story when it originally ran; we’re reposting it here in case you missed it.

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating how counterfeit titanium from a Chinese company found its way into recently manufactured Boeing planes, according to The New York Times.

The counterfeit titanium was discovered after a parts supplier for the plane manufacturer found small holes in the material due to corrosion, generating concerns about the structural integrity of the planes, according to people familiar with the matter who spoke to the Times.

It is not clear yet how many planes were affected or which airlines own or operate them, but the materials were included in parts manufactured between 2019 and 2023 on Boeing 737 Max and 787 Dreamliner airliners, as well as in European competitor Airbus’ A220 jets.

“Boeing reported a voluntary disclosure to the FAA regarding procurement of material through a distributor who may have falsified or provided incorrect records,” an FAA spokesperson told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

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“Boeing issued a bulletin outlining ways suppliers should remain alert to the potential of falsified records. The FAA is investigating the scope and impact of the issue through our Continued Operational Safety process.”

One of Boeing and Airbus’ suppliers, Spirit AeroSystems, is also investigating the titanium it used and whether it is structurally sound enough to remain on the planes through the lifetime of their operation or whether it needs to be removed or replaced, according to the Times.

“This industry-wide issue affects some shipments of titanium received by a limited set of suppliers, and tests performed to date have indicated that the correct titanium alloy was used,” Boeing told the DCNF.

“To ensure compliance, we are removing any affected parts on airplanes prior to delivery. Our analysis shows the in-service fleet can continue to fly safely.”

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The plane manufacturers appeared to have been sold the titanium after an employee at a Chinese company forged the details on the required certificates, masquerading as another Chinese company, Baoji Titanium Industry, that has in the past supplied verified titanium, people familiar with the matter told the Times.

The counterfeit materials tested by Spirit so far have passed some tests but have failed others, but they are of the appropriate grade for use on airplanes.

“Our quality management process relies on the traceability of the raw materials all the way from the mills,” Gregg Brown, senior vice president for global quality at Spirit, told the Times.

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“There has been a loss of traceability in that process and a documentation challenge.”

Boeing planes have faced a wide variety of quality concerns over the past several years, with the most recent bout of controversy stemming from an Alaska Airlines flight in January that had a door plug fly off during operation, resulting in an emergency landing and several injuries.

Spirit AeroSystems Malaysia made the door plug in March 2023.

Dave Calhoun, Boeing CEO, has said that he will step down from his position at the end of 2024 following the slew of recent safety issues.

Calhoun entered the job after the previous CEO, Dennis Muilenburg, was fired due to safety concerns following a pair of crashes in 2018 and 2019 that killed 346 people.

Spirit did not immediately respond to a request to comment from the DCNF.

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