By Tim Hepher
PARIS (Reuters) -Jet engine maker CFM International said on Wednesday the number of engines suspected of containing falsely documented parts from a UK distributor had risen to 126, including 16 inside its own workshops after it inadvertently bought them indirectly.
CFM, owned by GE Aerospace and France’s Safran, issued the status report as it received documents turned over by AOG Technics on the order of a British judge, and said there had so far been no reports of any operational impact.
It also released fresh details of parts involved, including some low-pressure turbine blades, but said the majority were routine, less critical parts like nuts and bolts.
It is still analysing the documents, received on Wednesday.
“CFM is reviewing the documentation turned over by AOG Technics as part of our effort to determine the full extent of their sale of parts with fraudulent documentation,” CFM said.
“We are working collaboratively with operators so they can promptly remove the unauthorized parts from their engines in accordance with the recommendations issued by the regulatory agencies.”
AOG Technics could not be reached for comment.
In a court hearing last month, lawyers representing AOG and director Jose Zamora Yrala said they were “cooperating fully” with the investigation without commenting on CFM’s claims.
CFM has said thousands of components appear to have been sold with false paperwork by London-based AOG, putting the integrity of the highly regulated aviation system at risk but without so far triggering any safety incidents.
The number of affected engines has risen from 96 at the time of last month’s hearing, but still represents less than 1% of the 22,600 CFM56 engines in use globally.
Without accurate paperwork, airlines cannot tell which parts are airworthy. Suspect or unapproved parts have to be removed.
CFM56 engines are repaired through third-party networks or at maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facilities operated by CFM itself. The company said it had found four cases where parts from AOG infiltrated its own facilities, impacting 16 engines.
“One instance was through CFM Materials. The other three involved indirect purchases from suppliers who sourced material with falsified forms from AOG and unknowingly sold it to CFM,” it said in a statement.
The CFM56 is the most sold jet engine in history and was developed by a transatlantic venture that turns 50 next year.
CFM said the majority of parts involved are “non-serialized items like bolts, nuts, washers, dampers, seals and bushings”.
It reiterated that no “life-limited parts” – typically the most critical rotating parts of the engine that have to be changed after a certain number of flights, regardless of whether they are worn out – had been found among the suspect components.
But newly released legal filings showed that the sales of parts included at least three cases involving low-pressure turbine blades, a rotating part inside the engine’s complex core, and some high-pressure compressor vanes – a static part.
The findings cover thousands of parts for the CFM56 engine as well as hundreds of parts for GE’s CF6 engines, used mainly on commercial freighters.
A document presented by CFM and its shareholders to a UK court last month, but only made available on Wednesday, listed examples of suspect sales dating back as far as April 2018.
CFM56 engines entered service in 1982 and power the previous generation of Boeing 737s and about half the previous generation of Airbus A320s. These are gradually being upgraded to newer models but thousands remain in service.
The filing said at least one major aircraft manufacturer and one other engine supplier, which it did not identify, had issued their own bulletins to airlines alerting them to the AOG case.
CFM said its more recent LEAP engine, used on the upgraded Boeing 737 MAX and some Airbus A320neo jets, was not affected.
(Reporting by Tim HepherEditing by Bill Berkrot and Deepa Babington)