U.S. Airlines Have Been Flying With Fake Parts. The Man Who Sold Them Was Just Apprehended.

Used airplane engine parts have been sold as new, so they may not be working as well as expected and won’t last as long. Parts have been falsely certified, and documentation faked.

There’s are grey and black markets in aircraft parts you sometimes see in South Asia and Africa. However over the past several months a company based in London has come to light misrepresenting the parts they’ve been selling for CFM56 engines to major airlines around the world. Since these engines tend to power older Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 family jets, everyone has them – including the major U.S. airlines.

By selling used parts and parts without proper certification as pristine, AOG Technics has been earning an outsized return, but at what risk?

And people who were supposed to be top executives on the company’s website weren’t. Executives listed may never have existed. The companies they say they worked for were made up. And even the photos of the company’s people appear to have been pulled from stock photo sites.

It’s not just American, Delta and Southwest. Now Ryanair has been found to be flying planes with these parts, even though they never did business with AOG – instead receiving parts from another company that did.

Company owner Jose Alejandro Zamora Yrala has finally been arrested today. He was still in London, at home, not even having fled the country despite the scandal unfolding over the past several months.

The Serious Fraud Office arrested AOG Technics Ltd.’s director, Jose Alejandro Zamora Yrala, at his home address on the outskirts of London on Wednesday. The SFO is working alongside the Civil Aviation Authority on the investigation. The agency didn’t identify Zamora as the individual arrested.

…“We are now going through front doors, making arrests, and seizing properties. So that is very rapid progress, particularly for the SFO because our cases often necessarily take a long while,” he said.

Planes have had to be grounded, engines inspected, which is costly and it’s not clear the extent to which aviation safety was compromised. It remains concerning that airlines and suppliers trusted an unknown company with non-existent executives who had faked backgrounds, and that paperwork associated with parts was easy to fake at a level to fool people who shouldn’t have been fooled.

This is not a new issue, though the scale of this particular fraud is especially large. Two decades ago falsely-certified parts were linked in some way to 10 crashes. And thirty years ago crashed jets were being scavenged for parts to re-sell.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. There has to be more to this story. For repaired or rotable parts you’d have to have an 8130-3 or an EASA Form 1 signed off by someone authorized to execute, or a C of C from a PAH on new parts. Either that or it’s completely crooked systemic fraud at each level including failure of FAA/EASA in auditing.

  2. Aren’t users of the raided parts supplier on the radar for having possibly had corrupt motives in doing business with the raided parts supplier?

    Any mention if the shady supplier had been engaged in sanctions busting and providing parts to sanctioned countries like Russia and Iran?

  3. “It remains concerning that airlines and suppliers trusted an unknown company with non-existent executives who had faked backgrounds, and that paperwork associated with parts was easy to fake at a level to fool people who shouldn’t have been fooled.”

    Sadly, it should not surprise anyone by now that this level of fraud and forgery of documents and websites is laughably easy to produce. It’s exactly the type of visual and verbal fakery that AI does with ease. Take something that already exists, use it as a starting point, then rearrange, substitute images scraped from the web or “imagined” by AI, add verbiage cribbed in the same way.

    Glad they caught the guy this time. (And yes, I realize that there must also be actual parts for them to counterfeit and sell, but the quote I addressed related to their apparent surprise at how convincing their company information was.)

  4. This kind of stuff with websites run by shady operators has been going on long before AI talk was on the tongues of the general public. With the rise of Netscape and the increased public use of internet browsers to get company info, so too came this very kind of thing.

  5. Literally baffling, an airlines #1 asset is safety, lack of safety and the airline ceases to exist. How airline parts and the people who sell them are not properly scrutinized, validated and verified is beyond belief.

  6. About the document-forging part of this — how in this day and age is a SIGNATURE on a sheet of paper the thing that designates whether something is genuine or not? I mean, this stuff is laughably easy to forge.

  7. A lot of transactional activity — whether commercial or non-commercial — is built upon there being a certain level of trust implicit in accepting signatures, photo ID, witnesses to representations, and notarization.

  8. In 1981 I bought a new RV that had hardened wheel lug nuts that were counterfeit from China.A wheel broke off on the Interstate at 65mph. My family could have been killed in the wreck. Turned out that MANY trucking companies. airlines, US Military and even NASA had installed parts from this supplier. This is not new news, nothing has changed.

  9. Major airlines have many different parts suppliers. They may request 20 of part number 12345 from supplier A. A may have 19 on the shelf and have to call around for one more. They find one with all the proper paperwork. That paperwork is easy to fake, but it looks right. It gets sent to the airline. The part may be new but from an uncertified shop. Old but refurbed by an uncertified shop. Old and just cleaned up , but the common thread is the paperwork that follows it is fake.

  10. Some years ago I had 10 J 57 engines returned because some dumbass installed turbines that had GREEN TAGS. This made its way all the way to the air bases before the paperwork screwup was detected.

    It made it’s way past QC, DCAS and through test, packing, and shipping before the slow paperwork review process caught it.

  11. That’s why we have an Accredited Distributor program, AC 00-56 in the U.S.. If they distributor is not on the list and subject to audit, don’t buy from them. You get what you pay for. If the price seems too good….

  12. Loren,

    It could be, but how to get there and by when? Between the fragmentation of sourcing and the inertia for involved parties to keep doing things the way they have long been done, what’s going to kickstart a change and get the parts sourcing/suppliers to go down the new route you suggest? Also, even if going down that route, traditional inventory control and tracking methods are probably still needed “just in case”.

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