Dubious Titanium Acquisition Casts Shadow Over Aviation Behemoths Boeing And Airbus – OpEd


Boeing and Airbus, the top two commercial aeroplane-makers, may have used titanium acquired with fake documents. This claim comes from a supplier and has led to an investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), as reported by NBC News.

Spirit Aerosystems, located in Wichita, Kansas, in central United States, produces various aeroplane components, including fuselages and wings, for such leading aircraft manufacturers as Boeing and Airbus. They specialize in creating these essential parts to support the construction of commercial aeroplanes for the aviation industry.

Spirit Aerosystems alerted the authorities that there was an issue with titanium. It alleged that Boeing and Airbus might have used titanium in their aircraft with possibly fake documents. On Friday morning (June 14), the FAA announced its intention to probe Spirit Aerosystems’s claims. They quickly took action to remove all the questionable titanium from the supply chain.

The company said in a statement that titanium with fake documents had entered their supply system. Once they discovered this, they quarantined and removed all the suspect parts from their production. Spirit Aerosystems added that they had completed over 1,000 tests to verify the mechanical and metallurgical properties of the affected material, ensuring that it remained safe for use in aircraft.

This news comes at a tough time for Boeing, which is already under federal investigation for supposed safety issues. It also puts the spotlight on Airbus, Boeing’s main competitor based in France, adding to the broader scrutiny that the aviation industry is currently facing.

The FAA confirmed another investigation into Boeing, stating that the company voluntarily reported buying materials from a distributor who might have falsified, or provided incorrect, records. The statement added that Boeing had released a bulletin advising suppliers to stay vigilant for potential fake records.

Airbus holds about 60% of the commercial airline market, while Boeing has the remaining 40%, making the two companies a duopoly in the industry. Boeing mentioned in an e-mail statement that this issue affected some titanium shipments received by a limited number of suppliers. However, tests so far have shown that the correct titanium alloy was used.

Boeing also stated that they were “removing any affected parts from aeroplanes before delivery. The company’s analysis revealed one reassuring fact—that the planes now in service could continue to fly safely. Airbus, too, released a similar statement after carrying out its own tests, stating that several of these had been conducted on parts supplied by the same source. These tests show that the aircraft are still safe to fly, which, the company said, was their top priority.

Earlier, on Friday, the FAA announced an investigation into how a Boeing-737 Max jet had experienced a ‘Dutch roll’ incident during a flight from Phoenix to Oakland last month. ‘Dutch roll’ is a type of aircraft motion that involves a combination of yawing (side-to-side motion) and rolling (tilting of the wings). It can make the plane appear to wobble in flight and is usually undesirable, requiring the pilot to correct it to maintain a stable flight.

Boeing had a trying start to the year in January when a door panel on one of its 737 Max-9 aircraft blew off during a flight. The FAA is also looking into whether Boeing completed the necessary inspections on its 787 Dreamliner jets.

Risks and Consequences of Using Defective Titanium in Aircraft

Using defective titanium material in commercial aircraft can have serious safety implications. Titanium is a critical component in many parts of an aircraft due to its strength and light weight. If the titanium is faulty, it can lead to structural weaknesses, potentially causing parts to fail during flight. This can compromise the integrity of the aircraft, posing significant risks to passengers and crew.

In addition to safety concerns, the use of defective titanium can result in financial and reputational damage for the airline manufacturers. They may face costly recalls, repairs and legal liabilities. Furthermore, their reputation for safety and reliability could be severely impacted, leading to a loss of trust from airlines and passengers alike.

Girish Linganna

Girish Linganna is a Defence, Aerospace & Political Analyst based in Bengaluru. He is also Director of ADD Engineering Components, India, Pvt. Ltd, a subsidiary of ADD Engineering GmbH, Germany. You can reach him at: [email protected]

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