If you make jet engines, it’s never good news when rogue operators in your far-flung forging operation falsify testing data for 15 years on critical parts.
Pratt executives are no doubt wondering how that could have gone undetected from the mid-1990s all the way to 2011 at the Carmel Forge unit in Israel. But the company is saying there was never a flight safety risk as a result of the fraud.
And, in an internal email I obtained, the company goes to great lengths to laud its in-house whistleblower program, which rooted out the wrongdoing when an employee reported it — albeit after many years.
“The company is grateful that this individual came forward,” said the memo dated March 1, signed by two Pratt VP’s — Joe Santos, the general counsel, and Mary Anne Cannon, head of quality and environment, health and safety.
Santos and Cannon go on to say the program at Pratt parent United Technologies Corp., known as Ombudsman/DIALOG, is confidential, neutral and independent, “which means it operates separately from management.”
The incident, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, was revealed publicly at a time when Pratt’s quality controls and compliance are under close scrutiny. On Feb. 22, the Pentagon grounded the 17 test aircraft in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, citing a cracked turbine blade made by Pratt. And the company is examining five types of engines might contain titanium from a San Diego supplier that incorrectly certified the metal.
Last year, UTC agreed to pay a $75 million fine to settle criminal charges that Pratt & Whitney Canada and UTC Aerospace Systems illegally sold helicopter technology to a company controlled by the Chinese government.
All of these incidents point to quality control and compliance concerns. But the other piece of good news in the Carmel Forge crisis is the very fact that test records can be manipulated at the unit that makes forgings of engine disks, the parts at the core that hold blades and vanes, without affecting safety. This indicates that Pratt, under close FAA scrutiny, has enough redundant safety systems that a screw-up in one area can’t lead to a compromised part in the final engine.
Still, as the memo said — in the department of the obvious — “manipulation cannot and will not be allowed.”