Caveat Emptor, Fraud and Aircraft Engine Parts

Caveat Emptor, Fraud and Aircraft Engine Parts

One person has been arrested in a fraud investigation in the U.K. What does this have to do with aircraft maintenance? The person arrested is Jose Alejandro Zamora Yrala, 35, founder of AOG Technics. He was arrested at his home in London as we went to press. The U.K.’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) — yes, this is a real agency within the U.K. government tasked with investigating and prosecuting serious or complex fraud and corruption in England, Wales and Northern Ireland — raided an address and arrested Zamora Yrala as it announced the launch of a new criminal investigation into fraud at AOG Technics Ltd, the aircraft parts supplier that serviced several major airlines in the UK and around the world.

The agency reported that SFO investigators, accompanied by officers from the National Crime Agency, seized material from a site in Greater London and that Zamora Yrala was subsequently arrested. This investigation had been ongoing since the summer, when the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) announced it was investigating the company for the “supply of a large number of suspect unapproved parts.”

AOG Technics, headquartered in the U.K., has been a supplier of parts globally for the world’s best-selling passenger aircraft engine, the CF56, and most-used cargo aircraft engine, the CF6, since 2015. The agency reported that the parts were mostly sold to overseas companies that install airline parts, as well as some UK airlines, maintenance providers and parts suppliers.

The U.K. CAA, the United States’ Federal Aviation Administration and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency all issued alerts earlier this year to aviation businesses who may have bought or installed the company’s parts and these agencies continue to manage the safety implications involved. Some planes in the U.K. and U.S. have been grounded.

The SFO reports that they are working closely with the CAA and other regulators to examine the information obtained as it advances its criminal investigation into suspected fraud at this firm and determines whether there are additional grounds for prosecution.

“This investigation deals with very serious allegations of fraud involving the supply of aircraft parts, the consequences of which are potentially far-reaching,” said Nick Ephgrave QPM, director of the Serious Fraud Office. “The SFO is best placed to take this investigation forward vigorously and we are determined to establish the facts as swiftly as possible.”

One such part in question is the General Electric Company (GE) bushing part number 1856M94P01 sold by AOG Technics LTD to TAP Maintenance & Engineering which was announced in September in FAA Unapproved Parts Notification 2023- AAE-EHL-20230801-713. The notification advised all aircraft owners, operators, manufacturers, maintenance organizations, parts suppliers and distributors that GE bushing part number 1856M94P01 was sold by AOG Technics without Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) production approval.

That UPN goes on to say that the “FAA encourages aircraft owners, operators, manufacturers, maintenance organizations, parts suppliers, and distributors to inspect their GE Model CF6 engines and/or aircraft parts inventories for the referenced FAA bushing part number sold by AOG Technics LTD to TAP Maintenance & Engineering. If these bushings are installed or found in existing aircraft parts inventories, the FAA recommends that they be removed and quarantined to prevent installation until a determination can be made regarding their eligibility for installation.”

In September, CFM International filed a lawsuit which accused AOG Technic of selling possibly thousands of engine components with forged paperwork. The lawsuit stemmed from the fraud probe.

Attorney Matthew Reeve, working for CFM and its co-owners General Electric and Safran, said AOG Technics had been involved in a “deliberate, dishonest and sophisticated scheme to deceive the market with falsified documents on an industrial scale.”

Court filings allege that CFM and its engine partners have “compelling documentary evidence that thousands of jet engine parts have been sold by [AOG] to airlines operating commercial aircraft fitted with the claimants’ jet engines.” The number of engines suspected to have parts with forged documents could be in the hundreds.

AOG and Zamora Yrala are “cooperating fully” with the CAA investigation, according to lawyers representing them.

As we close out 2023, let me take this time to thank each and every one of you working in the aviation maintenance industry to keep the flying public safely in the air. The pressure and responsibility you shoulder daily is immense. As someone who flies regularly for both work, pleasure and fun, I am grateful for the seriousness, dedication and integrity with which you pursue perfection, even knowing we are human and to err is human.

I see you out in the trenches every day doing the right thing and making the hard calls. As iconic American football coach Vince Lombardi said, “…we are going to relentlessly chase perfection, knowing full well we will not catch it, because nothing is perfect. But we are going to relentlessly chase it, because in the process we will catch excellence.”

Here is to you, your daily pursuit of perfection and the burden you bear, even as you navigate fraudsters and other unnecessary hurdles and challenges.