Key Points:

  • The UK's Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has launched a criminal investigation into AOG Technics, a London-based firm, for allegedly distributing counterfeit parts for aircraft engines.

  • A raid in the London area led to the seizure of materials related to the fraud allegations, focusing on parts for the widely used CFM56 passenger jet engine.

  • The investigation, spurred by reports from a Portuguese maintenance company, has led to airlines grounding planes and replacing parts, though less than 1% of CFM56 engines are currently affected.

SFO Investigates AOG Technics for Fraudulent Aircraft Parts

LONDON — The UK's Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has confirmed that it arrested an individual on Wednesday as part of its criminal investigation into allegations against London-based AOG Technics. The company is accused of distributing fake parts for aircraft engines, specifically targeting the CFM56, the world’s most-sold passenger jet engine. A raid in the London area led to the seizure of evidence related to these fraud allegations.

Nick Ephgrave, the SFO director, stated that the investigation is tackling grave allegations of fraud in the supply of aircraft parts. The implications of such fraudulent activities are extensive, potentially affecting the safety and reliability of aircraft operations. AOG Technics, at the center of these allegations, was not immediately available for comment.

Impact on the Aviation Industry and Ongoing Investigation

The CFM56 engines, which are powered by the alleged counterfeit parts, are used in the previous generations of Boeing 737s and approximately half of the Airbus A320s of the same generation. Although industry insiders suggest that the parts in question are not critical to aircraft safety, CFM International – a joint venture between France's Safran and U.S.-based GE Aerospace – has expressed concerns. They emphasize that the use of counterfeit parts undermines the ability to verify the airworthiness of aircraft.

Safran and GE Aerospace have accused AOG Technics of selling thousands of parts with false certification documents for the CFM56 engines. Safran has been advocating for a criminal investigation since October. The issue first came to light in June following reports from a Portuguese maintenance company, leading to regulatory alerts from Britain, the United States, and the European Union.

To date, only a small fraction (less than 1%) of the 23,000 CFM56 engines in operation have been affected by this issue, resulting in some airlines grounding planes and replacing parts. The SFO is currently interrogating the arrested individual and collaborating with regulatory bodies to determine if there are grounds for prosecution in this case.