Reactions to the Kobe Steel Problem
FAA’s/Boeing’s Quality Controls
Boeing Passenger Jets Have Falsely-Certified Kobe Steel Products: Source EU advises firms to suspend purchases from Japan’s Kobe Steel, major supplier to aircraft manufacturers around world Kobe Steel Scandal Is Now Subject of Justice Department Inquiry
- The New York Times reported that “Boeing Co… has used Kobe Steel products that include those falsely certified by the Japanese company …Boeing does not as yet consider the issue a safety problem… the Japanese company, which is embroiled in a widening scandal over the false certification of the strength and durability of components supplied to hundreds of companies.”
- CNN reports that “[t] he European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) advised manufacturers in a statement Wednesday to suspend their use of Kobe Steel (KBSTY) products after the Japanese firm admitted to falsifying data.”
- The New York Times reports that “Kobe Steel USA, had received a request from the Justice Departmentfor documents and records related to any substandard metals sold to customers in the United States.” There is no mention of the FAA in that article.
- Searches of the FAA and DOT websites (as well as a general Google search) produced no statements comparable to the EASA quote (see 2. above)
That series of quotes, perhaps prematurely, raises the question of why the FAA has not joined in the fray of further dishonoring the Japanese executives? Certainly, the US Government was very vocal about the Takata airbag scandal.
The devil is in the details and the FARs are full of details.
- The 1st detail is a fact buried in the Times article:
- “Boeing does not buy products such as aluminum composites, used in aircraft because of their light weight, directly from Kobe Steel. Its key Japanese suppliers, including Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Subaru Corp, however, do.”
- The obligations under a Production Certificate requires that WHEN PURCHASING RAW MATERIAL directly from a manufacturer, the Aircraft PC holder must exercise a high level of quality control over, in this case, the aluminum. Since Boeing did not acquire the falsely certificate from Kobe, the company did not have primary responsibility.
- The Times article makes the supply chain clear:
- ” Its key Japanese suppliers, including Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Subaru Corp, however, do.”
- The components delivered by these sub suppliers must have been accompanied by certification by those Japanese companies that their product met the standards set in their contracts and supported by the PC.
- Even with these secondary certifications, Boeing was obliged to make some level of quality control check upon intake. The QC test would relate to the element’s specifications. If there is some method of non-destructive testing, Boeing would be required to do so. The Kobe false certification may or may not have been susceptible to the QC test.
- Again, the Times explains that Boeing has taken the extraordinary steps to assure the safety of their aircraft:
- “The U.S. airline maker is carrying out a survey of aircraft to ascertain the extent and type of Kobe Steel components in its planes and will share the results with airline customers.”
While tempting to catch the public’s attention, which may also tend to reduce or exacerbate passengers’ nerves, the FAA has not issued any additional warnings, yet. There may come a time, when, for example. additional facts are known, that an announcement will be appropriate, but for the moment silence is prudent.Share this article: