"Unapproved Parts" on Southwest, American, and United Planes Forcing Cancellations and Delays
A major scandal is currently unfolding in the aviation community.
Flight cancellations and delays have become a major headache for travelers over the past few years, as everything from COVID callouts to severe weather to pilot shortages have prompted planes to be grounded. In fact, thunderstorms and logistical problems caused over 30,000 flights to be canceled this past Fourth of July weekend. Now, a suspicious scandal concerning "unapproved parts" is forcing even more cancellations and delays. Read on to discover how Southwest, American, and United planes have been affected.
The FAA has just issued an alert about "unapproved parts" in planes.
A major scandal is currently unfolding for the aviation community. On Sept. 21, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a safety alert warning about "unapproved parts" supplied by the UK-based company AOG Technics. According to the FAA, AOG Technics sold an aircraft part called bushings for General Electric (GE) model CF6 jet engines without having the agency's approval.
Jet engine maker CFM International told Reuters on Sept. 20 that thousands of these parts may have been sold using paperwork that AOG Technics forged. In court filings, Matthew Reeve, a lawyer for CFM and its co-owners GE and Safran, said that they had identified at least two forged FAA forms for "hundreds" of CF6 parts so far, according to the news outlet.
They were discovered on a Southwest plane last month.
Even before the FAA alert, Southwest Airlines was the first to confirm that "suspect parts" from AOG Technics had made their way on a commercial aircraft, Bloomberg reported in early September. The carrier said the components were found in an engine used on a Boeing 737 NG aircraft and were replaced following the discovery, according to the news outlet.
"We became aware of the issue in early August and took necessary steps to ensure we do not have any parts in our fleet from AOG," Southwest said in a recent statement to MarketWatch. "Our suppliers conducted a review of Southwest parts and identified one engine that contained two low-pressure turbine blades from this vendor. In an abundance of caution, we made an immediate decision to promptly replace those parts on that single engine."
But they've since been found on American and United flights as well.
It's not just Southwest, however. It appears that at least three major U.S. carriers have fallen victim to the serious scam. United Airlines confirmed that it also found unscrupulous parts from AOG Technics in two aircraft engines, Bloomberg reported on Sept. 18. The components were discovered in a single engine on each of the aircraft—one of which was already undergoing routine maintenance, according to the news outlet.
"We are replacing the affected engines on both aircraft before they are returned to service, and we'll continue to investigate as new information becomes available from our suppliers," a United spokesperson also told MarketWatch.
American Airlines is the most recent carrier to make a similar discovery. Just hours after the FAA alert was issued, the carrier told Bloomberg that it had also found unapproved parts from AOG Technics on its planes. "Through the work of internal audits as well as collaboration with our suppliers, we've identified the uncertified components on a small number of aircraft—each were immediately taken out of service for replacement," a spokeswoman for American Airlines said. "We'll continue working with our suppliers and coordinating closely with the FAA to ensure these parts are no longer in our supply or otherwise in use on our aircraft."
Flights have been delayed and canceled because of this scandal.
Carriers are having to ground certain aircraft to make replacements when they find these AOG Technics parts, which has already prompted delays and cancellations for some Southwest, American, and United flights, Fortune reported. Outside of the U.S., Virgin Australian was also forced to ground two Boeing 737 aircraft due to fake engine parts—which means that about 100 planes around the world have been affected by the scandal so far, according to the magazine.
Unapproved parts are not a new problem in the aviation community, however. The FAA created the Suspected Unapproved Parts (SUP) program specifically to address unapproved parts entering the U.S. aviation system and "mitigate the potential safety risk" of these components being installed in aircraft. In 2016, NBC News reported that unapproved parts had played a role in nearly two dozen crashes that had either resulted in injuries or fatalities since 2010.
Retired FAA inspector Ken Gardner, who helped run the SUP program from the beginning, told the news outlet that unapproved parts are cheaper for repair shops and aviation mechanics to buy because they aren't put through rigorous testing and costly inspections to make sure they don't fail. "Unapproved parts don't go through that. You have no idea when they're going to fail," Gardner said. "If they fail, it could be critical."