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An Unnerving Reality
Posted By: Nancy Cogliandro, Marketing Director, PKB (Nancy, pacamor at msn dot com) 06/15/2009
In her recent article, "An Unnerving Reality", published in Aerospace Manufacturing and Design, Heather Turnstall discusses the terrifying reality behind counterfeit and unapproved parts that find their way into planes.
Pacamor Kubar Bearings (PKB) is deeply concerned by these risks to parties who put their trust in counterfeit and unapproved parts. PKB takes pride in our quality, workmanship, knowledge and skill as experts in the production of high quality aerospace bearings. The entire PKB factory is AS9100:2004 & ISO 9001:2000 certified and all of our DFARS approved products are FAA TSO-C149 Aircraft Bearings certified. If the package isn't shipped directly from PKB, or from one of a very few PKB approved resellers, be sure that the product you are buying is original PKB manufactured product.
Heather Turnball's article puts strong emphasis on the risks involved with counterfeit or unapproved parts. Here is the introduction segment of her article.
According to an FAA estimate, about 520,000 counterfeit or unapproved parts are currently making it into planes annually, which is about 2% of the overall 26 million active parts. While 2% may seem like a small number, consider that a typical passenger aircraft contains up to 6 million parts, and consider the extreme tolerances for failure to which each part must adhere.
Playing With Fire
The business of counterfeiting products has a multi-layered effect on the aviation universe. Legitimate part suppliers are being cheated out of money, and purchasers are receiving sub-standard products. But, most importantly, the ultimate problem is the danger that a defective part can pose to the pilot, crew and passengers on an aircraft.
A printout of an internal FAA database obtained by Business Week in 1996 showed that from 1973 to 1993, bogus parts played a role in at least 166 U.S.-based aircraft accidents or less serious mishaps. Four of those were accidents involving commercial carriers that resulted in six deaths.
The FAA began to proactively address this problem in 1995, when they enacted the "Suspected Unapproved Parts" (SUP) program. The program was partially spurred by unapproved fire extinguishers, smoke detectors and oxygen supply systems being found in Air Force One. The fact that the most high-security plane in the world contained unapproved components caused much concern regarding this growing threat. The SUP program aims to identify, report, and penalize companies that are known to manufacture and/or distribute components that are either unapproved or counterfeit.
The motivating factor behind the dangerous and unethical practice of supplying counterfeit aircraft parts lies behind one simple incentive: money. Many unapproved parts have been traced back to China. Safety testing, which can cost a significant amount, is often bypassed by counterfeiters. The product is then sold for a considerable profit, often with the purchaser none the wiser.
"One of the factors that determines the ease of counterfeiting relates to how some of the distribution channels work, and whether there are enough people who are effectively distributors with very low profit margins who are involved in the distribution chain," says Paul Kocher, president and chief scientist of Cryptography Research, Inc., a San Francisco-based company that specializes in anticounterfeiting technology. "The more you've got and the smaller [the profit margins] are, and the more competitive the business is, then the more likely you are to have counterfeiting problems.".