Aerospace Vendor Probed for Allegedly Faking Tests

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Ladish Co. Pacific Division, a Los Angeles aerospace vendor, is under federal investigation for allegedly falsifying tests on metal forgings for military aircraft, industry sources and company officials said Friday.

Ladish, one of the largest aerospace forging operations in Southern California, produces large steel and aluminum forgings, which are very high strength parts formed by presses. Its customers include major aircraft companies throughout Southern California.

Northrop Corp. officials confirmed that the company has begun a review of parts supplied by Ladish.

"We are aware of possible problems," Northrop spokesman Tony Cantafio said. "We are reviewing both material purchased directly or components from suppliers who used Ladish Pacific."

Cantafio said the review is being conducted by Northrop's aircraft division in Hawthorne, which produces the aft section of the F-18 jet fighter and various drone jets. Cantafio said he did not know which specific Northrop products contain the Ladish forgings or whether the firm had actually found any problems.

Henry P. McHale, chief executive of Wisconsin-based Ladish, confirmed in a telephone interview Friday that the company is under federal investigation but declined to discuss details.

"These kinds of investigations have been done on every aerospace company in the world," McHale said.

He said the company is continuing to operate and that the firm has "taken quite a few actions" in response to the allegations, but he did not elaborate.

The allegations about Ladish were raised by two former Ladish Pacific employees, who are now represented by whistle-blower attorney Herbert Hafif.

"It is our understanding that this matter is now before a grand jury," said Philip Benson, an attorney in Hafif's office.

The Justice Department is believed to be targeting false testing of aircraft parts as a major area for prosecution. Ladish is under investigation for failing to test parts and for certifying bad parts, Benson said. McHale declined to discuss the merits of the allegations.

Under Pentagon guidelines, aerospace companies are permitted to certify the integrity of their own products rather than use independent laboratories to perform the tests. As a general rule, aircraft structural parts cannot have defects larger than the head of a pin, and each of the thousands of parts must be carefully tested with dyes, X-rays and ultrasonic equipment for such flaws.

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