Fake Titanium - In Boeing AND Airbus Planes

News outlets are reporting that vendor Spirit AeroSystems somehow used illicit sources of titanium with forged documentation as to the material’s quality.

The planes that included components made with the material were built between 2019 and 2023, among them some Boeing 737 Max and 787 Dreamliner airliners as well as Airbus A220 jets, according to three people familiar with the matter

Later in the same story…

Spirit is trying to determine where the titanium came from, whether it meets proper standards despite its phony documentation, and whether the parts made from the material are structurally sound enough to hold up through the projected life spans of the jets, company officials said. Spirit said it was trying to determine the most efficient way to remove and replace the affected parts if that ended up being necessary.

I think we are now at the point where “the corporate death penalty” is required. Sometimes an organization is so thoroughly corrupted that any attempt to change its moral compass by changing out only a handful of senior executives at a time is not sufficient to transplant the company’s “cultural DNA” for any new executives not to be corrupted by the remaining poison of prior generations of corrupt / incompetent executives.

Are we going to see an increase over the next 5-10 years of planes falling apart mid-flight from metal fatigue issues never seen in prior generations because prior generations actually inspected their own supply chain?



QA for MBAs? Automatic pay raise.

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Dutch Roll anyone?

No it is not good


Not a good confluence of events:

  • extremely rare flight dynamic normally prevented by flight control systems designed to detect and prevent the aircraft from nearing the point where the phenomena is possible
  • while rare, “Dutch roll” creates so many simultaneous stresses on the airframe that incidents of Dutch roll likely trigger extensive review of the plane’s condition upon landing
  • this Boeing 737 MAX not only EXPERIENCED this rare Dutch roll phenomena, possibly hinting of control system flaws but the condition damaged its backup power control unit in the tail of the plane
  • was the PCU damaged because it came loose from its mounting from the G-forces incurred during the Dutch roll? – bad / weak part?
  • was the PCU damaged by something else left in the plane’s tail that was loose and able to crash into the PCU?

As an aside, in this modern day of satellite internet connectivity, the idea that if an equipment failure takes place on a plane more than 2 hours away from any landing point that cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder data will loop and be overwritten at two hours sounds preposterous. Why do these recorders not have the ability to push data through a satellite link to officials on the ground. Or, likely easier… Has anyone heard of a USB flash drive? Why isn’t there a USB port in the cockpit that allows the CURRENT content of a CVR and FDR to be downloaded to USB before being overwritten then removed from the plane upon landing for review by engineers and safety officials?

Aviation is starting to make a cross country trip in a Corvair or Pinto look pretty good in comparison. (Only exaggerating but sheeeeeesh…)



Nothing new under the sun department.

When I was working at the pump seal company, some 45 years ago, word got around that a competitor’s documentation for material intended for nuclear power plants wasn’t worth the paper it was written on.


If those with inquiring minds:

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Dutch Roll …

… I swear at first glance, and maybe even second, it sounds like some sort of s3x act!

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I survived three of those as a kid, all of them while towing another car.

Side note, my dad still owns both of those cars!

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I think the people who bought the material from Chinese without proper verification of the material should go to jail.

The nuclear power industry has also had problems with fake materials being used in nuclear reactor systems.

Counterfeit, Fraudulent, and Suspect Items

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Kobe Steel and others have provided falsified documents to over 700 reactor for over 70 years:




The titanium in question has been used in a variety of aircraft parts, according to Spirit officials. For the 787 Dreamliner, that includes the passenger entry door, cargo doors and a component that connects the engines to the plane’s airframe. For the 737 Max and the A220, the affected parts include a heat shield that protects a component, which connects a jet’s engine to the frame, from extreme heat.

That‘s a relief. At first I was worried mission-critical components might be affected. /scsm


They do. The airlines have pushed back since at least the 90’s on requiring more storage, as it is expensive to replace all the black boxes with ones that will record (and preserve) more data. In an unlikely alliance, the pilots’ union has joined them in not wanting the cabin recorder to go more than 30 minutes out of an unfounded fear that the recordings will be used to (somehow) place blame on pilots or even be used in non-crash situations to “monitor” them. Big brother, and all.

The “flash drive” solution seems to make sense, but the data recorders aren’t set up to disgorge such data on a regular basis, that has to be done on a workbench (or at least used to, I’m about 15 years out of date here) at the NTSC or FAA or similar. But again, cost. Each black box costs thousands of dollars, times tens of thousands of aircraft.

And in the industry the whole thing is suspect; they weren’t even installed in most aircraft until Congress required it.


If it only were a technical issue…:

… As of 2008 it is an FAA requirement that the recording duration is a minimum of two hours.[34] The European Aviation Safety Agency increased the recording duration to 25 hours in 2021.[35] In 2023, the FAA proposed extending requirements to 25 hours to help in investigations like runway incursions. …

Flight recorder - Wikipedia.


Fraudulent documents has happened before. You would think new supplier would be checked out to be sure their parts are authentic. But catching an approved supplier who substitutes fraudulent materials is tricky.

The quality programs is very much into do it right the first time rather than constantly testing. The tendency is to accept manufacturers documentation. But looks like periodic spot checks are still needed.

How were counterfeits detected? Probably by whistle blower or spot checks.

QA should be figuring out the density and strength of parts. Along with knowing other specs.

The tradition in the quality programs imported from Japan to the auto industry in the 1990s is to minimize testing. The classical example is the ball bearing factory. Rather than testing every ball bearing to see if it meets specs, better to find the machine making bad parts and shut it down until repaired.

Testing every part is out of style. Qualify the supplier and trust them to deliver quality products.

I have heard the opposite in one key situation only 10 years ago. A women designer working in a parts plant in CT. The machine shop was making parts for Boeing. The old engineer wanted more heat that winter. The machine shop was on a tight budget because times were tough. The parts were not to spec when Boeing did QA. The machine shop lost the contract and did not get paid. The shop went out of business.

CT is a machine shop state. There are plenty of QA guys and gals here.


A Boeing 737 Max 8 dropped out of the sky at 16,000ft to 400ft before landing in Hawaii. According to Boeing, first officer “inadvertently” pushed forward on the control column and it dropped 14,000ft before anyone noticed. Southwest Airlines spokesperson said that “the event was addressed appropriately.”
Nothing to see here


Usually qualifying a supplier means lots of statistics on the odds they can deliver a quality product. When approved you trust them to deliver.

Checking once in a while to be sure they are on spec is a good idea but the stats tell you how often that is necessary.

In the titanium case at Boeing, you suspect the issue was not dimensions of the parts but rather the purity of the titanium. Can it be alloyed with lead or iron or something cheap? And will it still perform? Was it supposed to be 99.99% pure but turned out to be only 99%. And does it matter?


No way to know. However, it would have to be a lightweight alloy in order to not immediately trigger a problem–due to the weight of the material being noticeably more than a near-pure metal.

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Of course there is a reason for the purity. An engineer decided it was needed and his boss agreed. The required purity is documented in the engineers calculations and specs.