or “How I Ignored All of My Own Requirements and Got Burned – Bad”
The aircraft industry is currently roiling over the apparent introduction of thousands of suspect engine parts into the supply chain by a bogus distributor who falsified airworthiness documentation. The distributor, AOG Technics, purportedly headquartered in London, has sold numerous different spare parts, ranging from fasteners to turbine blades, for use in engines made by the General Electric / Safran partnership CFM International. As of October 5, 2023, there are at least 126 affected engines with American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, and Southwest Airlines grounded aircraft in order to find and replace the bogus parts on their engines. Further investigations are ongoing by GE and Safran to determine the extent of the use of these parts. It appears that this problem will only grow in scale and will cause further disruption in airline operations.
It seems incomprehensible that such a large variety of critical engine parts could be procured from a company that flies a number of red flags including:
The company is not registered, as a distributor, to AS9120. The OASIS database does not reflect AOG Technics as a registered supplier for any of the ASD Standards.
Apparently, the company does not have a “real” physical presence. As reported by the Wall Street Journal, reception and security staff at the office block listed as the company headquarters
“were unfamiliar with the company”. A representative for another company in the building “confirmed that AOG was a virtual client and doesn’t hold a permanent presence at the location”.
The LinkedIn profiles for company personnel include dubious work histories and the use of stock photos for personnel. Indications are that these profiles are completely bogus and that the people don’t exist.
A single person, Jose Zamora Yrala, is the lone director and shareholder for AOG Technics.
Beyond the above, the name of the company itself is a red flag. “AOG” is an industry term for “aircraft on ground”. This term is used when there is a problem serious enough that an aircraft should not be flown. Buying aircraft parts from a company named AOG is kind of like buying a used car from “POS AutoWorld”.
In the age of AS9100, AS13000, the OASIS database, and a robust industry-wide quality management system registration scheme, how could such a thing happen? The Standards for a quality management system require controls for product safety, prevention of counterfeit parts, and qualification and monitoring of external
providers: all deployed within a risk management framework. It could be said that these controls were not effectively deployed in the case of AOG Technics being on the Approved Supplier List for CFM International.
One of the primary reasons for the thirty-year existence of Management Systems Improvement (MSI) has been to help small aircraft industry companies comply with the stringent requirements of the business. Small companies face a myriad of management system requirements that can, at times, be onerous. Our job at MSI is to fully understand the industry requirements, and develop for the Client those processes and controls that meet the requirements of industry customers as efficiently, effectively, and creatively as possible. Once implemented, these controls are then subject to assessment by Registrars and/or customer representatives in order to objectively ensure that requirements are met. Our clients are continuously monitored by the customers and the industry (through registration and the OASIS database) as the means to reduce risk throughout the aircraft industry supply chain. When one of these industry-shaking events occurs at the top of the supply chain, it is extremely frustrating to those companies at the lower levels. Indeed, if one of our small-company clients was found by an Auditor to be using a supplier like AOG Technics with the issues cited above, a major noncompliance would no doubt be raised.
A common refrain from the lower levels of the supply chain toward the “Primes” is that tough requirements are flowed down by the ultimate customers while the customers appear to flout those very same requirements within their own systems. There are significant events that make the newspapers where the upper-echelon companies don’t follow the rules; the 737 Max MCAS flight control software issue, for example. However,
there are constant occurrences in the day-to-day dealing of suppliers with customers where the customers do things that are frustrating and apparently in contravention of the requirements of industry standards. It seems at times that the customers have processes that don’t meet the requirements of the Standards or are not following their own procedures. Some of these issues include:
Failure of customers to communicate full and accurate configuration information (i.e.: drawing revision, specification changes).
Rejections of supplier parts for subjective reasons (i.e.: surface finish, appearance).
Constant pulling in and pulling out of order delivery requirements.
Scorecard results that don’t recognize the vagaries of shifting customer order requirements.
Inconsistent application of customer and industry standards by customer Auditors.
Of course, a supplier wants to treat the customer well and maintain the relationship. It would be wonderful if the customer was always right. However, all too often, the perception of the supplier towards its customer is that the customer personnel are too often “not right” but that the inequities of the relationship prevent customer personnel from acknowledging when they are wrong. All too often, the supplier comes out of these
instances with the short straw and has to make concessions in order to maintain the relationship. It would be nice if the higher levels of the supply chain were more willing to recognize when they contribute to a problem and work more equitably with the supplier toward a resolution that was mutually beneficial to both parties. The higher levels of the supply chain should not only be mandating requirements for the industry but should
be setting a good example by stringently following the requirements themselves.