Fake (?) Titanium Parts Made It On Boeing And Airbus Jets

By Spyros Georgilidakis | June 18, 2024

Spurious titanium parts with fake or forged paperwork made it on both Boeing and Airbus aircraft, over a period of several years. How?

Late last year, an Italian aerospace company, called Titanium International Group (TIG), noticed something odd about a batch of titanium that they had in storage. The material looked a bit different, compared to other batches of titanium.

Fake (?) Titanium Parts Made It On Boeing And Airbus Jets
Photo: José A. Montes, CC BY 2.0

A closer examination also revealed tiny surface holes – most likely corrosion. When the company took a closer look at the paperwork that came with this piece of titanium, they discovered that part of the documentation seemed fake.

This happened in December last year, and initiated a worldwide investigation, revealing that more titanium with fake paperwork had made it onto multiple aircraft types. Part of the material had been made into aircraft parts, which ended up with aerostructures manufacturer Spirit AeroSystems.

Photo: Spirit AeroSystems

Titanium Parts With Fake Documentation – A Long Journey

Spirit is a tier-1 supplier for both Boeing and Airbus, as we’ve seen previously. As it turns out, this problem goes back to 2019. Before reaching TIG in Italy, the titanium supply with the fake documentation went through Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI), another aerostructures company.

TAI had previously bought the material from a Chinese supplier. The fake documentation indicated that the titanium came from another Chinese company, called Baoji Titanium. Baoji later confirmed that the documentation was forged, adding that it has no business dealings with the other Chinese company.

Fake (?) Titanium Parts Made It On Boeing And Airbus Jets
Photo: Boeing

The FAA and EASA, its European counterpart, are investigating the matter. The titanium parts with fake provenance have made it on Boeing 737s, 787s, and Airbus A220s. Boeing and Airbus are also taking part in the investigation.

At this time, it is not clear how many aircraft include titanium parts from the batch that came with fake paperwork. Part of the investigation effort involves determining the spurious parts’ composition and properties.

Fake (?) Titanium Parts Made It On Boeing And Airbus Jets
Photo: Steve Lynes, CC BY 2.0

Urgent Problem or Not?

This investigation will determine the urgency for removing these parts from in-service aircraft. For now, Boeing has stated that “there is no impact to safety” from this issue. Similarly, Airbus stated that its testing shows that “the A220’s airworthiness remains intact”.

Photo: Air France

Some have opined that this problem happened because of Western sanctions on Russia, a major titanium supplier. The theory is that the aerospace industry’s search for non-Russian titanium led to the use of unusual supply sources – and this fake documentation.

This theory seems… shaky since the issue goes back to 2019. Aircraft that entered service with parts made out of this material entered service between 2019 and 2023. However, some suppliers have explored ways to limit Russian dependence since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Photo: Xuan Shisheng

The spurious titanium parts on aircraft include passenger door components, cargo doors and engine pylon parts (787), and engine installation components that must be resistant in high-heat environments (737, A220).

This “fake paperwork” story doesn’t appear to be related to an older titanium part issue that made the news in 2021. That story also involved an Italian subcontractor, who sold titanium parts that didn’t meet specifications, that made it onto Boeing 787s.


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