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How Safe Is Your Plane?

by John M. White |

CBS news has reported that as late as May 5th 2008 a major supplier of composite materials to both military and civilian aircraft manufacturers, Airtech International, has been under investigation by the U.S. Army for fraud, kickbacks and producing non-conforming products. In a memo obtained by CBS news Army criminal investigators said that they “.. seldom have come across a company with such brazen disregard for the safety of soldiers and civilians as well as for the sanctity of laws…” in part.

The company is a major supplier of composites which are materials that are combinations of two or more organic or inorganic components. One of the materials is called the “matrix”, which is the one that bonds everything together while the other material is in the form of fibers embedded in the matrix serving as reinforcement.  To make composites for aircraft the composite material, in fabric form, is laid out, layered with fibers running in different directions, cut into various shapes and then placed under heat and pressure in autoclaves which causes the resin to flow and when removed solidifies. The greatest value of composite materials is that they are both lightweight and strong.

Airtech is accused of providing non-conforming parts which do not meet customer specifications and which have contaminants that can weaken the finished structure and thus endanger passengers and crew.

The company issued a statement saying “We are aware of no current ongoing investigation” and that they had fully cooperated with the government, and considered the matter closed citing a November 2006 letter from the FAA which conducted its own investigation and found no violation of federal regulations.

According to a May 5th document an “active investigation” is still being conducted by the US Army while the House Transportation Committee wants to know why there has been so little action.

Until next time keep your wings straight and level Hersch! JetAviator7 ps: Don't forget to sign up for our newsletter "All Things Aviation" here!

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