Boeing Alerts Airlines to Extent of Fake Parts Usage

Times Staff Writer

Boeing sent an advisory late Thursday night to 365 airlines and operators worldwide regarding more than 2,000 allegedly counterfeit ball bearings placed in its commercial jets, it was learned Friday.

The advisory indicated that the bearings were placed in more Boeing aircraft than was originally reported.

The Seattle-based aerospace giant said the bearings were placed in all of its model types manufactured from April, 1986, through January, 1988. Those models are the Boeing 737, 747, 757, 767, the AWACS radar surveillance plane and the E6 anti-submarine plane.

Experts say the bearings, which are washer-shaped and about the diameter of a golf ball, typically are used in several flight control areas: the airplane’s gear box, the pilot control systems, which are used by the plane in changing altitude, and the plane’s trim tabs, which help the pilot keep the plane level during flight.


Boeing’s advisory said its tests of the allegedly counterfeit bearings “thus far have indicated they are acceptable for use in currently identified applications and no application has been determined to be safety related.”

Boeing also told the airlines that “If the continuing investigation reveals any safety-related application, we will contact you immediately.”

Alliance Sued

The allegedly counterfeit parts were first mentioned publicly in a July 28 lawsuit filed by Torrington Co., a Torrington, Conn.-based ball bearings manufacturer, against Alliance Bearing Industries of Van Nuys, a parts distributor.


Torrington Co., which is owned by Ingersoll-Rand, sued Alliance for trademark counterfeiting among other charges. Alliance has denied the allegations but admits that some of the bearings it sold to Boeing were not the bearings the labels said they were. Alliance says the alleged counterfeiting was the work of one employee.

On Thursday, the Federal Aviation Administration began an investigation to see if the bearings pose a safety threat to passengers.

Meanwhile, the Douglas Aircraft division of McDonnell Douglas Corp. in Long Beach has begun its own internal investigation to see if any of the allegedly counterfeit bearings are in its MD-80 or DC-10 models.