As reported by The New York Times and Yahoo Finance earlier this week, the FAA is currently investigating suspected counterfeit materials in various aircraft, involving multiple manufacturers.

AS9100 mandates that organisations test raw materials. Organisations often challenge this requirement, arguing that they receive materials from reputable stockists, distributors, or directly from mills and that the provided certificates appear adequate.

While sourcing directly from a mill significantly reduces the risk of counterfeit products, buying from stockists or distributors introduces potential ambiguities in the material’s chain of custody. Stockists might source materials from other stockists if they don’t have the specific material in stock when an order is placed, complicating traceability.

Although the specific details of the FAA’s investigation are unclear, this situation underscores the critical importance of testing raw materials. Such testing serves two main purposes: verifying that the material composition matches what is specified and ensuring that the certificate accurately reflects the material’s composition. While test results may not perfectly match the supplier’s certificate, there should be a reasonable level of accuracy between them.

The news suggests that the suspected counterfeit materials were used in aircraft structural elements, which raises significant concerns. According to AS9100, raw materials used in high-risk areas, such as structural components, must be tested due to their critical safety implications. The presence of counterfeit materials in these parts indicates a severe oversight.

In 2023, a significant amount of counterfeit products were found in several engines. These components were supplied by a well-known industry supplier, who was not AS9100 certified. Certification could potentially have prevented the introduction of counterfeit products into the supply chain.

Organisations must consider the severe consequences of not testing raw materials, regardless of their source or the apparent reliability of their certificates. Counterfeit parts are a widespread issue, affecting not only the aerospace sector but all industries. However, in the aircraft sector, the stakes are particularly high as lives are at risk. This reality must be kept in mind, especially when considering the implementation of AS9100 standards.

We recently published a blog about how to deal with suspected counterfeit materials which is available here if you would like to learn more.

If you are considering implementing either AS9100 or AS9120 then get in touch.