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Déjà vu for P&W in new titanium probe

Keywords: Tags  titanium, Pratt & Whitney, Western Titanium, engine parts, Frank Haflich

LOS ANGELES — Pratt & Whitney Co. is investigating titanium used in its aircraft engines that was supplied by Western Titanium Inc., reviving memories of an earlier criminal case against the San Diego distributor.

The East Hartford, Conn.-based aircraft engine builder has determined that some material originating from Western Titanium "may not meet all of the raw material specification requirements (that) has been delivered in P&W products," it told AMM.

A three-year criminal case against Western Titanium and four current or former executives ended in 2011 when the company pleaded guilty to one of 19 counts of felony mail fraud involving one shipment of "nonconforming" titanium and paid a fine of about $50,000 (, Jan. 14, 2011). The titanium was used on military aircraft, as well as spacecraft built by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

"Other than material described in the plea agreement, we did not sell material that did not meet spec to Pratt & Whitney suppliers or to Pratt & Whitney," Western Titanium attorney Nancy Luque said Feb. 27.

Pratt & Whitney, a subsidiary of United Technologies Corp., is conducting "appropriate quality and engineering reviews" but believes that any parts that might not meet all of its requirements still "meet the necessary performance requirements" of its customers.

"To date, we have not uncovered any flight safety risk associated with those parts," Pratt & Whitney said.

The material in question has been used in its PW4000, PW2000/F117, F100, F119 and F135 engines, said Pratt & Whitney, which didn’t give the number of engines involved.

A Pratt & Whitney spokesman declined to comment further or say when the titanium under investigation was actually supplied to the company.

Among the government’s allegations against Western Titanium in 2007 were that it supplied customers with titanium that was supposed to be rolled plate but for which the distributor "knowingly" substituted forged slab or billet that didn’t meet aerospace and industry specifications.

The distributor claimed the government’s charges were based on a "nonsensical" definition of billets supplied by a government witness that wasn’t accepted by the industry.

Moreover, a number of industry sources also said the charges against Western Titanium reflected practices that, in large part, were common in the industry at the time.

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