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Problematic titanium was found in Boeing and Airbus jets. The FAA is investigating how it got there

Marco Bello/Reuters

Titanium that was distributed with fake documentation has been found in commercial Boeing and Airbus jets. Now the Federal Aviation Administration, the aircraft manufacturers and supplier Spirit AeroSystems are investigating whether those components pose a safety hazard to the public.

The probe, first reported by the New York Times Friday, is the latest black eye for the aerospace industry, which has had a series of problems recently with the quality and safety issues involving jets. The investigation comes after small holes were discovered in the material, apparently from corrosion, according to the Times report.

The FAA and Boeing confirmed that they are investigating the matter. Boeing said the questionable parts come from a limited set of suppliers, and tests performed to date have indicated that the correct titanium alloy was used.

“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.”

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Spirit said the investigation is looking into counterfeit documents that allowed the questionable titanium to enter the supply chain.

“When this was identified, all suspect parts were quarantined and removed from Spirit production,” said Joe Buccino, a spokesperson for Spirit. “More than 1,000 tests have been completed to confirm the mechanical and metallurgical properties of the affected material to ensure continued airworthiness.”

Airbus said it is aware of the situation.

“Numerous tests have been performed on parts coming from the same source of supply,” it said in its statment. “They show that the A220’s airworthiness remains intact.”

The FAA said it trying to determine the safety implications to planes that were made using the parts. It is unclear how many planes have parts made with the questionable material, according to the Times, which said among the planes with the parts were the Boeing 737 Max and 787 Dreamliner and the Airbus 220.

“Boeing reported a voluntary disclosure to the FAA regarding procurement of material through a distributor who may have falsified or provided incorrect records,” the statement said. “Boeing issued a bulletin outlining ways suppliers should remain alert to the potential of falsified records.”

Besides stirring concerns among passengers about the safety of flying, the growing list of problems for the aviation industry have reduced the capacity of planes available to fly, and thus put upward pressure of airfares in the face of strong demand for air travel globally.

The most serious and high profile problems involve Boeing, which had two fatal crashes of its 737 Max due to a design flaw in 2018 and 2019 that killed 346 people and led to a 20-month grounding of the jet. More recently a door plug blew off an Alaska Airlines 737 Max flight on January 5, forcing the plane to land with a gaping hole in its side.

Airbus has also had problems with some of the engines that have grounded some of its planes owned by different airlines.

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