Air Transport World

Bogus parts: ticking time bomb. (includes case history)

Bogus parts: Ticking time bomb "Bogus parts." Two words that wave a red flag of danger, provoking fear in a public forum and an uneasy feeling in the airline industry. The threat of bogus parts will be with us always. However, it may be reduced substantially.

This has been a difficult nut to crack for two basic reasons. The threat, thoughominous, remains a fairly low level one, not screaming for attention. Also, the threat comes in many guises, from many sources, requiring sweeping systemic corrective actions. In addition, although the term carries the implicit charge of purposeful underhanded dealing, some bogus-parts episodes simply are misunderstandings and misapplied paperwork.

How serious is the problem? Anthony Broderick, FAA associate administrator for regulation and certification, gave bogus parts "about a 2" on a scale of safety concerns from 1 to 10.

However, a fear exists that people and businesses squeezed out of the declining military market will switch to the civil side without a full understanding of the system or with a desperate need to make money.

For the record, it should be mentioned that Air Transport Association, FAA and the Aerospace Industries Association of America want to distance themselves from the term "bogus parts," preferring instead the euphemism "unapproved parts." Although intended to recast a problem that has a bad image in the public eye, cosmetic work, no matter how technically correct, cannot change the fact that this sort of activity always will have a bad image.

"A large part of the [bogus-parts issue] is more of a public-relations problem than a real safety issue; the facts do not support that there is a problem that the public should be concerned about," said an FAA maintenance regulator.

But that bad image associated with bogus-parts stories largely is a reflection of an industry that, while rigorously conscientious in the correct maintenance of its equipment, leaves substantial openings for immoral operators prowling the fringe of the industry, seeking the fast buck by any means. …

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