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Counterfeit Parts

Old 09-19-2023, 10:17 AM
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Default Counterfeit Parts

UA, SW, Virgin have found fake parts on CFM56...

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Old 09-19-2023, 11:22 AM
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Counterfeit parts have been a FAA hot ticket item for a long time; it's especially problematic in hardware that looks the same, but isn't.

A long time ago, before it became the issue it is today, I picked up a garlock seal for an accessory drive on a Continental piston engine, and replaced the seal. It leaked. It's not uncommon, especially if they don't drive into place perfectly, but the solution is to replace the seal again, because it will be destroyed on removal. I went through four replacement seals; each one leaked. I did a little investigating, and found that the supplier was putting an automotive seal in the Continental box and putting that on the shelf. Same component manufacturer, same part number, but much lower cost. I ordered the correct seal direct, and installed it. It didn't leak. Anecdotal, and without clear scientific proof: I didn't mic the parts when pulling them because pulling them deformed them, so no way to verify tolerances. Four failed, one worked, and the one that worked, I knew came directly from Continental. While it's possible that they did the same thing, and while the same manufacturer makes the same parts with the same part numbers, the performance was different. Was there a difference in the part sold as an aircraft part, vs. the automotive? I don't know. The final part performance, however, was clear.

Turbine parts such as blades or bearing components/seals are a scarier proposition; these are very specific parts That won't be found in other applications. Failure consequence is catastrophic. The 8130 form that accompanies the part is supposed to authenticate, but someone selling counterfeit parts with fake 8130's (or more accurately, falsified 8130's) is knowingly bypassing all standards to insert unairworthy parts into the system. Imagine components like control cable turnbuckles that don't meet the same standards (flight control or engine control failures). Attach hardware, which doesn't meet the standards for material strength, tolerance, dimensions, etc; I've seen a landing gear come loose with hardware failure through the trunion box, that damaged the gear, trunion, and spars). Dangerous stuff.
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Old 09-19-2023, 11:28 AM
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Eons ago I worked at Pratt & Whitney.

One of my projects was finding ways to identify counterfeit turbine blades that were causing issues for us on the PW2000 series engines.

It was sometimes super easy, other times they were the right dimensions, right alloy but improper manufacturing process and would have air cooling passage differences that short of destructive testing you'd never find.

Until they overheat locally and suffer a catastrophic creep failure.
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Old 09-22-2023, 12:31 PM
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The FBI reports that they open new investigations into Chinese ops every 3 days now. They hope to win a war with America (and any free society), without ever firing a shot. Their goal is to destabilize the economies through various criminal enterprises (counterfeiting), as well as espionage.

When I first heard about CCP counterfeiting, as a tool of a cold war a few years ago. I wrote it off as hysteria. I began to read more and have since changed my mind. Their counterfeiting operations accomplish at least several things toward that goal. Profits go toward continuing espionage, while equipment failures cost American companies and military hundreds of millions., and keeps our federal investigative agencies overwhelmed with keeping up.
I myself was a victim (on a small scale) of counterfeit coins..Morgan dollars, back before it was well known that such a thing existed. Then again three years ago with counterfeit bearings for my truck.

It is a different battle of attrition.

They are a far greater threat than the Soviet Union could hoped to have been.
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Old 09-22-2023, 03:15 PM
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To clarify, are you saying that the counterfeit parts that are encountered in all walks of aviation are really a secret Chinese conspiracy to bring down the US?
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Old 09-22-2023, 08:06 PM
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Originally Posted by JohnBurke
To clarify, are you saying that the counterfeit parts that are encountered in all walks of aviation are really a secret Chinese conspiracy to bring down the US?
No, they are notorious short cuts often taken on parts made in China.
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Old 09-22-2023, 10:06 PM
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It sure sounds like Mr. Hopp's post specifically says that China is producing counterfeit aviation parts to bring down the United States, and that sounds a lot like conspiracy-talk. Looking for clarification.
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Old 09-24-2023, 12:18 AM
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Originally Posted by JohnBurke
It sure sounds like Mr. Hopp's post specifically says that China is producing counterfeit aviation parts to bring down the United States, and that sounds a lot like conspiracy-talk. Looking for clarification.
He was saying he got taken on bogus Morgan coins thanks to the Chinese trying to secretly take down the US.
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Old 09-24-2023, 01:39 AM
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Ah. Wild conspiracy theories for five hundred then, Alex. Got it.

Just curious if there's a secret cabal of pizza-eating pedophiles acting as the distributorship, that we need to worry about. Or maybe aliens inside the moon, which is really a giant space station sprinkled with dust by the Chinese, for disguise. Or covertly-organized flesh-eating Chinese bees. Those are the worst.

A master global plan to flood the earth with fake Morgan dollars, by the Chinese, of course, is really devious, though. Masterful, but devious, and it's only a short leap from that to bringing down the country one turbine blade at a time.
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Old 09-24-2023, 09:50 AM
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An aside to the subject of counterfeit parts being installed might be the counterfeit mechanic or inspector installing them, or signing them off.


An annual inspection was performed, and the powerplant signed off as part of that inspection. In order to sign off that inspection, the person doing the signing must b the older of an inspection authorization (IA), and this guy didn't have an IA. This is especially perplexing, as to sign off an inspection, one must include one's IA number, just as one includes one's mechanic certificate number when doing a logbook signoff. This guy was so confident that his work would never be discovered, apparently, that he falsified a number and signed his name to it...and the engine subsequently failed in flight. Six months after the signoff, the owner took off from the same airpoort with is wife and two daughters, and lost the engine power shortly after becoming airborne. He attempted to clear powerlines at the end of the runway, was unable, ducked under and struck a tree with the wingtip while doing a gear up landing in a field beyond the powerlines. The aircraft was reported as destroyed, with no injuries.


What's interesting, reviewing the signoff in the logbook, is the scope of the signoff compared to prior signoffs, going back several years. The annual was signed off in the airframe logs, but not the engine logbook, and the propeller was overhauled several months after the inspection, by a Texas repair station. The individual who signed off the annual inspection in the airframe log didn't make an entry for the propeller, either. A signoff for an annual inspection is for the aircraft (everything: airframe, engine, propeller, all components, accessories, etc); only one signoff is required, as it's for the entire aircraft, though many inspectors will put signoffs in the engine and propeller logs, too (as they can separate and go elsewhere, down the line). The person signing off this inspection didn't just state the minimum, that he'd inspected the aircraft and found it airworthy, but he went into detail about the bathtub fittings, ruddervator fittings, and specifically stated compliance with two airworthiness directives. He cited having done a gear swing. That intrigued me, because most owners and mechanics don't keep things like gear jacks and other things necessary to perform an annual inspection. This suggested that either the details of the inspection were false, or the person doing this counterfeit signoff had the equipment and this wasn't the first time he'd done this. Equipment to inspect becomes cheaper the more one uses it, because like all work tools, it must pay for itself. So, did some guy in a hangar decide to help a buddy out and get the necessary gear? Did he study and know to research and cite AD compliance, swing the gear, and to inspect and test the ELT and list the battery expiration date? Seems improbable, but then so is going to that depth of detail in a logbook entry, on a falsified inspection authorization.

There's a more simple explanation, however; that the individual, while not legal to perform the inspection under a current authorization, was actually a former IA, or holder of an IA, who had the equipment and experience...but then we have the obvious problem of an aircraft with an engine failure six months after the inspection. The individual isn't cited with performing a bad inspection, just signing off the inspection when he wasn't legal. The #1 cylinder showed internal corrosion at the top of the barrel, and cracking between the cylinder barrel and top of the cylinder head (not visible externally). The only way this could have been seen is using a borescope. The airplane had a top overhaul with all cylinders replaced five years prior. A borescope inspection isn't necessarily part of an annual; a compression leakdown is often done, which really looks at rings, valve guides, and valves (or possibly a really bad, obvious completely cracked cylinder). Moreover, the inspection as signed off is valid up until the time the ink dries; the mechanic is not responsible for damage or work done after that time...but certainly when this airplane crashed, it drew the scrutiny of the FAA and NTSB, and the person doing the unauthorized signoff faced up to five years in prison and a quarter of a million in fines. It would have been a lot more in potential civil suits, should injuries or fatalities have occurred...though the inspection and the subsequent crash may have been unrelated and the inspection wouldn't have necessarily caught the cracking and corrosion, if it existed at the time of the inspection; the two weren't mutually exclusive or necessarily related.

The NtSB docket shows the engine in a holding yard, cowl open, and significant rust on the spark plugs. The date of the NTSB engine inspection is three months after the crash, so whether the cowl was left open and exposed to elements in the three month interim is unclear. The prosecutors indicated that the individual signing off the annual had held himself out as an IA, and had falsified the entry, and had not done the inspection. The individual pled guilty, and received three years probation. An FAA search shows that the individual currently holds no certification.

Counterfeit parts are bad: they can have dire consequence. But what about the person putting in those parts, or inspecting them, or operating them? Many pilots are unaware that while a mechanic can approve a part or aircraft or engine or repair for return to service, a mechanic cannot return the part to service. The pilot does that. So...when that fake mechanic puts in that fake part and performs a fake inspection, all of which is illegal, and you get in and go fly...YOU are actually returning the part/engine/aircraft to service. The mechanic might have approved the the work for you, but you actually took the legal action of putting it in service and of returning it to service...something I think 99.9% of pilots don't know or understand. When you cranked that prop or spun that starter and rotated and left earth, you took ownership for everything everyone had done, and bet your career, your name, your safety, and your life, on it.

In our line of work, we trust a lot of people.

Maybe we shouldn't.
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