Counterfeit Titanium Found In Boeing And Airbus Jets

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The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Spirit AeroSystems, a supplier of fuselages for Boeing and wings for Airbus, are investigating counterfeit titanium found in recently manufactured jets.

According to The New York Times, who first reported the news, falsified documents were used to verify the material’s authenticity—prompting concerns about the structural integrity of the airliners. The investigation comes as small holes were found in the material due to corrosion.

The use of fake titanium affects certain Boeing 737 Max and 787 Dreamliner airliners, as well as Airbus A220 jets, according to sources who spoke anonymously to The New York Times. It is unclear how many of the aircraft are in service and which airlines own them.

In a statement, Spirit AeroSystems said, “This is about titanium that has entered the supply system via documents that have been counterfeited. When this was identified, all suspect parts were quarantined and removed from Spirit production.” The company added, “More than 1,000 tests have been completed to confirm the mechanical and metallurgical properties of the affected material to ensure continued airworthiness.”

Both Boeing and Airbus reported their testing of the affected materials has not revealed any issues and airworthiness of their aircraft fleets remain uncompromised.

Amelia Walsh
Amelia Walsh is a private pilot who enjoys flying her family’s Columbia 350. She is based in Colorado and loves all things outdoors including skiing, hiking, and camping.

36 COMMENTS

  1. Regarding the titanium, who was the source country and the name of the supplier?
    Was Spirit lazy or complicit by being careless in procurement for financial convenience?

      • More likely from demanding that 20-30% of supplies now be purchased minority & women owned businesses; not from business with a track record. New suppliers means people that are not quite up to speed so there ARE quality issues.

        • Wow, tell me you’re a bigot and a misogynist by telling me you’re a bigot and misogynist.

          • Plz leave that tell me without telling me trash to Reddit or whatever slum it started in.

          • You’re clearly new – AJF is AvWeb’s resident curmudgeon and rarely has good insights to the convo, but mostly it’s comments similar to those you’ve called out 🙂

        • Just be like your friend who puts his wife’s name on the business license. Gee, are you to dim to figure that trick out? Stay in school, kids.

        • Actually, wrong. The suppliers were unsurprisingly from China. NYT article. China is well known for counterfeit material and forged documentation. Just another case of using a cheap source without concern about quality of product.

        • No, it doesn’t. You are a bigoted idiot. Neither sex nor ethnicity have anything to do with integrity or competence.

    • NYT article provided more information. The sourcing company was unsurprisingly Chinese. They are well known for counterfeiting product/material and forging documentation. Getting product from there is risky and only about bottom line, not safety. Only a some products has China as lone/primary source, even then thorough testing is required to ensure receiving per specifications.

  2. I recommend that all Boeing/Spirit personnel stay away out parked pickup trucks, hot tubs, and general aviation aircraft while maintaining currency on their influenza meds for the time being.

  3. “The use of fake titanium”

    “This is about titanium that has entered the supply system via documents that have been counterfeited.”

    If not real titanium, what was the material used in place thereof?

    Was it real titanium and just the documents that were counterfeited?

      • Actually a reasonable question. There are about a dozen common titanium + processing specs in aviation worldwide. Some of them are not that different, and it’s more an issue of documentation and testing, then actual quality. For example, US and Russian titanium specs are different, just slightly, for some typically aluminum/vanadium versions. The same material batch could be qualified as both, or either… It’s a matter of paying for each qualifications. Here, who knows what happened … I suspect given the long chain for moat aircraft parts, these were made of the real titanium alloy processed for consumer goods and not aircraft.

  4. Big problem for Boeing, smaller problem for Airbus and others:

    Spirit AeroSystems is a major supplier to both Boeing and Airbus, providing critical components, including titanium parts, for their aircraft. Approximately 70% of Spirit AeroSystems’ revenue comes from Boeing, making it their largest customer.

    Boeing relies heavily on Spirit for the fuselages of its 737, 777, and 787 models. Airbus, on the other hand, contributes about 19% of Spirit’s revenue, with Spirit supplying key components for models like the A320, A330, and A350. The relationship includes advanced titanium parts, which are crucial for structural integrity and weight efficiency in aircraft construction​ (Yahoo Finance)​.

  5. The discovery of counterfeit titanium in Boeing and Airbus jets underscores important issues related to safety, supply chain integrity, and economic stability within the aerospace industry.
    Yup! Keep buying from the PRC.

  6. Says a lot about Boeing/spirit greed/ethos. China companies play off that greed. Also, if they do it to a china company and there is a serious failure or death a good chance some corporate will get sentenced to death in China…..here they get a bonus.

    • It seems like Airbus is experiencing the same amount of incompetence, and greed, as Boeing. Of course, beating up Boeing and overlooking others seems the norm, today!

  7. What is the cost advantage of faking a certificate for a titanium batch — probably $4,000 if you use an outside certificating body, on a contract probably worth $100,000 or more?
    It is like Chinese car manufacturers using plastic nuts for pulley bolts, saving all of 50 cents, and not bothering about reputation damage when they break and the engine is ruined.
    More fool Spirit for not doing its own tests before using the stuff.

  8. PRC-sourced titanium immediately came to mind when the first reports about this showed up. It’s a known issue about a lot of purportedly “certified-verified-source inspected” materials coming from China. A while back I got some so-called “4130” from China that, when attempts were made to weld it, acted nothing like any 4130 I had ever used, before or since. I don’t know what it was but it sure wasn’t what the label indicated. And that’s when I made it a point to read the country of origin on all food labels too.

    It’s wise to take nothing in good faith from known bad-faith actors.

  9. I buy titanium frequently from Titanium Joe in Canada. They don’t manufacture titanium but buy and sell it in smaller lots. Usually it comes with a certificate but really small orders of cutoffs usually don’t, which they say upfront. We’ve never had any tested by an outside lab but we’ve also not had any parts fail in service. Still, visible corrosion is a huge no-no and points to errors starting at the smelter. There’s a fairly simple galvanic reaction test that we’ll be doing on future lots we buy. I wonder if Boeing does that?

  10. A nearby company here made parts for military vehicles. One part, a window molding, was subbed to an another local machine shop who made them for about $100. They found them available from China for $13, but when you cut through them, sand fell out! Didn’t go well for the owners, as there were many other issues.

  11. You get what you pay for. Unfortunately, the average passenger is unaware what “cost cutting” measures Boeing (and other major airplane assemblers) have in their corporate DNA. I do think the penalty should be severe enough to discourage this type of self interest (otherwise known as greed).

  12. Remember 25 years ago the “counterfeight” bolt scandal.
    Have we learned nothing since then?
    Most time when I buy “Chinese” it turns out to be junk.

  13. IMO this is mostly the problem of going with the lowest bidder regardless where the part or material is sourced. From any source you need to have someone, who knows what they are doing, on the ground at the manufacturing source.

    I was chatting once with a person who sourced parts for a german manufacturer. He said that when working with parts manufacturers in China he could get the same quality as sourcing from Germany but that it would cost the same as if they got the part made in Germany.

    Many times the only source for parts was China and they would specify mid range part quality to keep the appliance affordable.

    • Amen, We all get what we pay for. As noted above, it is ESSENTIAL, that the buyer have ‘boots on the ground’ at the source, both for QC purposes, and to emphasize that the [supplier’s] feet will be held to the fire at all times. It really has nothing to do with where the supplies are sourced from, all the China/Boeing/Spirit-bashing notwithstanding.

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