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June 24, 2014

Unapproved Aircraft Parts

Unapproved or bogus parts of aircraft are such parts, which looks original and according to standards of FFA Parts Manufacturing Approval (PMA) but actually a cheap copy of original parts with forged supporting documents or without supporting documents.  Such parts are also fall into the category of unapproved parts, which have completed their expected life and sold with some polishing and false life remaining.
Following categories of parts usually consider as bogus or unapproved:
  • Parts manufactured where production approval from NAA was not followed and shipped to the user directly
  • Parts which are not according to the quality standard of PAH quality System
  • Parts which are repaired or overhauled by such persons or companies which are not authorized by NAA to do so
  • False or counterfeit parts
Although inspection and scrutiny of all unapproved parts, received from the supplier, is not easy; but if all the airlines formulate a comprehensive strategy to cope with the danger of using unapproved parts, probability of air crashes must be decreased. Some points for avoiding unapproved parts and their supplier, are discussed in this report.
Case Study of Air Midwest Flight 5481
On 8th January 2003 Air Midwest flight number 5481 was crashed after taking off from Charlotte-Douglas International airport, North Carolina. Total 21 persons were killed and one person on the ground was injured.  This aircraft was flown from Tri-State/ Milton J. Ferguson Field, Huntington, West Virginia (HTS) to CLT one day before the accident and was in a good flying plane, according to the first officer. Post-accident investigations revealed that the airplane was destroyed due to the impact forces and fire after crash (National Transportation Safety Board, 2004)

Personal Information

The Pilot of the airplane acquired her private pilot certificate in February 1997 and she had been employed by the company in March 2000.  She had no accident or incident in her credit, according to FAA records. All Air Midwest Pilots, in post-accident interview, said that she was a capable pilot by all means and always demonstrated good knowledge and skills about airplane systems.
First officer was hired by Air Midwest in May 2001. He was 27 years old and acquired his commercial pilot license in November 2000. He had no accident or incident in his credit, as indicated by the records of FFA. In post-accident interviews, pilots of Air Midwest described him as a talented pilot with good communication skills. 

Airplane Information

Beech 1900 series airplanes were introduced in 1984. They are 57 feet and 10 inches long, 14 feet and 11 inches high, having breadth of 57 feet 11 inches. Beech 1900 are twin engine, long winged airplanes, which completed 11 million flying hours since they have arrived.  The said airplane of Air Midwest, having serial number UE-233, was delivered to them by Raytheon Aircraft Company on 30th August 1996.
Maintenance Program
Air Midwest maintenance program was comprised of the following inspections:
·         Periodic Service Check: it includes visual inspection of the aircraft and provide servicing if necessary
·         Routine check: performed every 100 flying hours and includes servicing of main parts
·         Detail check: it includes six phases, each phase after 200 flying hours
·         Structural check: it is performed when aircraft completed its first 12,000 flying hours and then followed by every 3,000 flying hours
Steps skipped during maintenance
Mechanic in his statement reported that he skipped some parts on instruction of quality assurance inspector during the process of maintenance. According to mechanic following steps were skipped during maintenance process:
·         Flight compartment seats, carpet and floorboards were not removed to access elevator bell crank
·         Adjustment of center-to-center length of forward push-pull tube
·         Adjustment of stop bolts on elevator control horn
·         Verification of bob weight stop bolt clearance
·         Release of cable tension
·         Inspection of control column support roller
·         Adjustment procedure of FDR pitch
·         Elevator Control System Friction Test
Weather Information
Weather condition was perfect when the accident occurred. Wind was blowing at 6 knots, temperature was 3· Celsius and the visibility was 10 miles.
Communication was stable and normal with the plot, as reported by the air traffic controllers.

Probable Cause of Crash

National Transportation Safety Board reported that the cause of this plane Crash was the loss of pitch control due to malfunctioning of elevator control system.

Case Study of Crash of Enstrom Helicopter

On January 12, 1997, a Macaw helicopter of Micronesian Aviation Corporation, flight number F28A, N9087 suffered a total loss of engine power and was crashed into ocean near the beach of Saipan Grand Hotel, Saipan. Helicopter was crashed due to the shortage of usable fuel. Five people were seriously injured in this accident. According to the witnesses, helicopter was flying parallel to the shoreline, when the accident occurred. They all agreed to hear a loud explosion sound, which immediately followed by the fall of helicopter into the ocean. A witness who was 5 to 10 miles north of the crash site, stated
“Shortly after the helicopter had passed us, I heard the aircraft make a sound like the engine was stalling. I heard this sound a second time about two or three seconds later after which I observed the aircraft begin heading down at approximately a forty-five degree angle. . . . At this time, I thought the aircraft was trying to land at the beach. About four to five seconds after I first observed the aircraft start heading down, I saw it crashed (sic) into the water" (NTSB).

Personal Information

Personal information of the pilot revealed that he was a certified pilot, commenced his training in July 1996 and passed the Commercial pilot check ride on 29th August 1996. He was working with the company, as a permanent employee since 2nd June 1996 in the capacity of mechanic and fixed wing pilot.

Helicopter Information

The engines of the said helicopter were overhauled in November 1995, by a contract facility. Engines were installed in the helicopter on 18th July 1996, as reported by the director maintenance of the contract facility. The mechanic of the operator reported that he had found the engine timed to 19 degrees before top dead center and he reset it to 25 degrees before top dead center.
Operator reported that no one had checked the engines except the employees of the operator. Operator further reported helicopter was used only once before accident, i.e. on 10th January 1997 and no engine malfunctioning was found then.

Weather Information

Weather condition was perfect when the accident occurred. According to the operator and witnesses, weather was normal, with light breeze, calm sea and clear visibility.
Communication was stable and normal with the plot, as reported by the air traffic controllers of Saipan Airport.
Refueling Operation
In his statement to the Safety Board, operator reported that the accident flight would anticipated to take 0.5 to 0.7 hours so he added 5 gallons of fuel into helicopter, which already had 12 gallons of fuel in its fuel tank. Pilot who was unaware of operator’s refueling, also add few gallons of fuel, and so helicopter at the time of flight had 26 and 28 gallons of patrol in its tanks. Operator further reported that he and pilot both agreed that this fuel is much more than planned payload condition, so they drained 10 gallons of patrol from the right tank. According to operator’s statement, the helicopter had 16 and 19 gallons of fuel when it started its flight. Operator fueled the helicopter manually and no pumping or fueling record was maintained.


Plaintiff said that the flight manual was defective, as it did not take into account the quantity of usable oil (Kolczynski, 2001). Ninth Circuit agreed and said that flight manual is actually the part of aircraft and thus this crash was happened due to the bogus or unapproved parts.

How To Avoid These Unapproved Parts?

Executives believe that quality has been the dominant factor in the success in world markets and improved quality is a major weapon to restore competitive position in the global marketplace. The theme of quality control is simple, “ the burden of quality proof rests with the makers of the part” (Schonberger, 1982; p. 34).
In order to avoid these unapproved parts following steps should be taken by airlines to lessen the chances of air crash:
  • Parts should be acquired from qualified suppliers who are authorize to manufacture and distribute that parts
  • Scrutinized the suppliers before ordering them
In order to scrutinize the suppliers, always avoid the following suppliers
·         Whose Quoted price is significantly lower than others
·         Whose Delivery schedule is much shorter than other suppliers
·         Unable to provide manuals, drawing specifications etc. of the parts
·          Unable to provide proper documentation of the parts
In order to confirm that no unapproved part includes in the airline’s supply chain, it is suggested that following inspections should be performed:
  • Always make sure that package is from the right supplier and free from any alteration and damage
  • Make sure that delivery receipt revealed the same information as ordered by the company
  • Make sure that either part or delivery receipt is not tempered with
  • Verify that life of the part is not expired
  • Inspect the part with supporting documents according to the NAA’s approval standard, which includes:
    1. CASA Form 917, Authorized Release Certificate
    2. Release Note with the standard of CAO 100.16
    3. FAA Form 8130-3, Airworthiness Approval Tag
    4. Form one of Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA)
    5. NZ Form1, Authorized Release Certificate
    6. Maintenance record
    7. Appropriate TSO markings
    8. Appropriate PMA markings
    9. Receipt and invoice from PAH
    10. Authority letter from PAH to ship directly
  • Verify that there is no shipping damage 

Quality Circles

Another approach to implementing a total quality philosophy is quality circles. A quality circle is a group of few volunteer employees who meet regularly to discuss and solve problems affecting their common work activities (Johnson and Winchell, 1985). Time is set-aside during the workweek for these groups to meet, raise problems, and try to find solutions.  
In this particular case, quality assurance inspectors were nominated to check and re-check all the new parts arrived, and if any unapproved part will be found, that supplier should be black listed immediately.


World in general, and United States in particular have spent million of dollars in airports security and in war for peace and security, as described by Bush
“We seek peace. We strive for peace. And sometimes peace must be defended. A future lived at the mercy of terrible threat is no peace at all. If a war is forced upon us, we will fight in a just cause and by just means- sparing in every way, the innocent. And if war is forced upon us, we will fight with the full force and might of the US military – and we will prevail” (Campbell and Chaulia, 2003).
But do they ever try to fight and avoid the threat for security and peace, within.
Using unapproved parts in aircrafts is also one of such sins, which take the toll of thousands of life. Although corruption and greed has now grown to such an extent that no reform what so ever, can stop the evil practices, but if all airlines use the above-mentioned precautions to avoid unapproved parts in their supply chain, chances of air crash, due to unapproved aircraft parts, can be decreased.


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