Boeing Sued by Three Workers

Times Staff Writer

Three Boeing Co. employees filed a whistle-blower lawsuit, alleging that Ducommun Inc., a longtime Los Angeles-area aircraft parts maker, supplied defective components used on a range of Boeing airplanes.

The employees, who work at Boeing's commercial aircraft division in Wichita, Kan., filed the lawsuit in March, claiming that Chicago-based Boeing was aware of the problems but tried to cover them up. It was unsealed Thursday.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Kansas, alleges that Ducommun's Gardena plant made more than 1,900 defective parts used on at least 32 of Boeing's airplanes, including 737s, 747s, 757s and 767s. The planes were delivered to the U.S. Air Force and Navy, as well as foreign military forces in Japan and Italy between March 1998 and November 2004.

The three employees, who were members of a Boeing audit team, contend that the parts did not conform to Federal Aviation Administration requirements. Boeing was aware of the problem but continued to sell the airplanes, falsely claiming that they were FAA approved, according to the lawsuit.

A Boeing spokesman said it just learned about the lawsuit and could not comment. Ducommun said its executives were traveling and were unavailable.

The lawsuit, filed under the federal False Claims Act, seeks at least $10,000 for each part considered defective. If the court determines that all of the parts in question are defective, the potential claim could exceed $19 million.

According to the suit, a Boeing field representative recommended in 1999 that it suspend Ducommun's delivery of parts to the Wichita plant. But the report was deleted from Boeing's computer system.

"Ducommun continued to deliver bogus, defective and nonconforming parts to Boeing Wichita," the lawsuit said.

The suit alleges that Ducommun kept two sets of books for manufacturing parts -- "fake books" for Boeing and the FAA and "real books" for itself.

Ducommun, headquartered in Carson, is one of the oldest companies in the state. It was founded in 1849 as a general store catering to miners during the Gold Rush and evolved to become a maker of electrical and metal structures for airplanes and spacecraft including the space shuttle. Ducommun posted sales of nearly $225 million last year and operates eight facilities, including five in Southern California with about 1,300 workers.

Ducommun shares rose 14 cents to $16.94 on Friday. Boeing shares closed at $63.02, up 3 cents.

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