Air Transport World

Stolen parts. (Airplane parts; includes related articles)

It was a standard procedure, the sort of thing that every airline in the U.S. encounters hundreds of times a year.

The maintenance-parts manager of a major airline

got an "emergency" phone call from another

carrier that had an aircraft on the ground. Did the parts manager have a spare Boeing 60 constant-speed drive (CSD) for a 737?

The parts manager checked his inventory, found that he did have one and advised that it would be waiting for the other carrier's courier.

Half an hour later, an individual appeared, presented the proper ID, signed the necessary papers and requested help in carrying the 75-lb. part to his van. The parts manager placed the paperwork in the appropriate file and turned his attention to other matters, secure in the knowledge that some other department would ensure that the part either would be replaced or paid for.

The "courier" and the 75,000 CSD walked out the door-forever. The courier, who worked for a highly organized crime ring rather than an airline, would move on to the next scam. Eventually, the CSD would show up in some other carrier's inventory after being washed," i.e., given new paperwork, then purchased through what may or may not have been a legitimate spare-parts broker. it well may have found its way back to the very airline from which it was stolen.

It's a scam that has been run over and over, costing the airlines millions of dollars and one that could have been prevented by a simple call back to the originating carrier to determine if indeed, it did need that part and had sent a courier for it. Checking the courier's ID was insufficient, since it was quite authentic, albeit also stolen.

Fortunately, this particular scam has become well-known enough that. parts managers-hopefully-no longer are falling for it.

Unfortunately, it is but one of many ways in which spare parts are finding their ways out of airline inventories and into the hands of parts brokers who, unknowingly or otherwise, sell them right back to the airlines.

Aircraft spares have three major factors thet make them prime targets for thieves-they are very expensive, they are relatively small and thus highly transportable, and a very active market for stolen parts exists, i.e., they can be "fenced" easily.

Also, obtaining them is easy-for two reasons. The first is that aircraft tend to sit out on ramps at night, guarded by security systems primarily aimed at preventing people from entering the area without identification. …

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