VIRGIN AUSTRALIA: Two aircraft have been pulled from service due to installation of unauthorised parts.
It’s being reported (SMH) that Virgin Australia has temporarily pulled from service two Boeing 737-800s, used mainly on domestic routes, particularly those servicing Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney.
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Used parts installed
Virgin was notified, that some parts coming from a UK-based supplier, AOG Technics, had false certification documents. Airbus A320s and Boeing 737s are the most common commercial aircraft worldwide, so AOG Technics services these aircraft types with parts.
Originally, Virgin thought that only one aircraft was affected, a Boeing 737-800 aircraft, VH-VUT. Turns out there was another VH-YFR. The parts were different. On one, it was a low-pressure turbine blade, and on the other, the seal on an inner high-pressure turbine nozzle. VH-VUT has since returned to service, but VH-YFR is apparently still in maintenance in Brisbane for part removal and replacement
Not the first report against AOG Technics
This company has been in trouble over supplying other falsely authorised parts to other airlines, including US carrier Southwest Airlines. An engine manufacturer, CFM International, the world’s biggest, is in legal action against AOG over 68 aircraft engines it alleges had falsely certified parts installed.
The documents are false as they assert the parts are new, when, in fact, engineers say they are clearly used. This includes parts for older Airbus A320s and Boeing 737 NGs. This has been confirmed by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency, which found the release certificates (required to determine if a part is safe to fly) for the parts were false.
Although disturbing, this sort of substitution shouldn’t be a surprise. There are massive supply chain issues with aircraft parts. Manufacture and distribution pathways for aircraft parts were suspended in 2020 due to COVID. With that level of uncertainty, it is taking time for those manufacturers and supply lines to return to levels appropriate for the current travel boom.
So far, systems in place have proved adept at discovering this kind of fraud. Let’s hope they are sufficient to continue to expose such abuses before some related catastrophic event occurs.