Fri, Dec 01, 2006
Defective Manufacturing Blamed For Parts Failures
The US Navy blamed a failed Seahawk helicopter tail rotor blade
on a "manufacturing defect." The crew reported an unusual
vibration during a routine flight. When they landed they found a
portion of one blade missing.
Sikorsky admits it could have been a big problem. The company's
vice president for quality George Klug told WTHN TV, "A total
failure of any flight critical part would be an issue."
Sikorsky says it doesn't know how a defective tail rotor blade
passed company quality control. More alarming, 41 other blades in
service on other choppers had similar problems.
And the problems aren't just with Navy birds. The US Army
reported the main gear box housings on some of its Blackhawks were
made of too thin materials.
The company maintains
it has an effective quality control program. "No manufacturing
system is perfect. We strive for perfection; we don't always reach
it, so getting people to identify the issues to address is what
we're about here," says Klug.
But WTHN TV says its sources report Sikorsky reduced the number
of quality inspectors at its Stratford, CT plant from seventy to
The company says some of the defective parts are not made by
Sikorsky and it relies on those suppliers to perform quality
"We've also added inspectors at our supply base," says
Klug. "It is more effective to take those resources and put
them where the parts are made than check them on the way into the
Despite internal documents obtained by WTHN showing an
eight-fold increase in quality issues, Sikorsky maintains its
safety record is better than ever. Klug says its aircraft
perform better than ever in the world's toughest environments.
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