The United States Government has indicted executives from Western Titanium, a metal supplier to Boeing, on claims that the titanium they provided failed to meet specifications. The Air Force has announced that, following a three year investigation, they concluded that the majority of the F-15 engine mounts made with Western’s titanium were weaker than what was required by the Air Force.
The indictment was brought in the Southern District of California and charges Western Titanium executives with eight counts of fraud and conspiracy for allegedly falsifying the quality certificates. The allegations have been filed against owner and chief executive Daniel Schroeder, former vice president of sales John Cotner, current vice president of sales Brian Misak and quality assurance manager Cheem Ang.
The media has reported that Western Titanium’s lawyer, Nancy Luque, is taking a firm stance on their innocence, saying “We aggressively will defend ourselves against these allegations, and we expect to be fully vindicated.” The Air Forece has focused on the process by which the titanium stock was formed. Obviously, there are a lot of facts that are not included in an indictment, and it is possible to conceive of a wide variety of potential defenses (for example, the metal from Western Titanium could have met specifications before being formed into parts, but then the subsequent manufacturing processes could have induced weaknesses; or the metal may have been ordered to specifications other than those demanded by the Air Force).
Regardless of whether Western Titanium and its executives are guilty or innocent, this case demonstrates the importance of tight quality controls and scrupulous honesty for everyone involved in the aircraft parts industry.
It also illustrates a potential business opportunity for the PMA industry. I have not spoken with anyone at the Air Force, but it looks like they’ve got several thousand aircraft parts that do not meet their specifications. A PMA company that is prepared to provide parts meeting the Air Force’s quality requirements could have an opportunity to support the fleets that were let down by the Western Titanium issue.
Finally, PMA manufacturers relying on Western Titanium as a supplier may want to check to see whether this indictment could affect continued supply.
Further details on the claims against Wetsern Titanium are available in a detailed and well-written Air Force Times article: http://www.airforcetimes.com/news/2008/12/airforce_titanium_122308/