Scary skies: ‘Small holes’ lead to startling discovery of counterfeit titanium on Boeing and Airbus jets

Boeing 737 Max may be one of the affected plane models  (REUTERS)
Boeing 737 Max may be one of the affected plane models (REUTERS)

Parts used in recently manufactured Boeing and Airbus jets have been left peppered with small holes after components were sold under the false pretence they were made from titanium.

The affected parts, which were supposed to be made of the strong and corrosion-resistant metal, were sold with allegedly counterfeit documents claiming to verify the material’s authenticity.

An investigation has been launched by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Spirit AeroSystems – which supplies wings to Airbus and fuselage for Boeing.

It comes after an unnamed parts supplier uncovered small holes in the material from corrosion, The New York Times reported.

The FAA is looking into both the long and short-term implications for the aircraft equipped with the faulty parts. It’s not clear how many planes have used components made from the fake titanium.

“Boeing reported a voluntary disclosure to the FAA regarding procurement of material through a distributor who may have falsified or provided incorrect records,” the FAA told The Independent.

“Boeing issued a bulletin outlining ways suppliers should remain alert to the potential of falsified records. The FAA is investigating the scope and impact of the issue through our Continued Operational Safety process,” it added.

Boeing’s 737 Max and 787 Dreamliner airliners, along with Airbus’ A220 allegedly include components made with the material, three anonymised sources close to the matter told TheNew York Times. All aircraft were said to be built between 2019 and 2023.

It’s currently unknown which planes are in service, and for which airline. Boeing told The Independent that the issue affects “a very small number of parts on any related Boeing airplane”.

“This industry-wide issue affects some shipments of titanium received by a limited set of suppliers, and tests performed to date have indicated that the correct titanium alloy was used,” Boeing wrote.

“To ensure compliance, we are removing any affected parts on airplanes prior to delivery. Our analysis shows the in-service fleet can continue to fly safely,” it added.

Spirit AeroSystems is trying to uncover from where the titanium was procured and to what extent it is structurally sound. If necessary, affected parts will be replaced, with the company currently assessing the most efficient means of doing so.

The faux titanium has been used in both Boeing 737 Max and Airbus A220’s heat shield that protects a component that connects a jet’s engine to its frame, according to Spirit AeroSystem officials.

Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner has used the material in its passenger entry door, cargo doors and a component that connects the engines to the plane’s airframe.

Both Boeing and Airbus have said their tests of affected materials had so far shown no issues.

The Independent has requested comment from Airbus and Spirit AeroSystems.