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P&W to settle in case over faulty engine blades

August 2, 2008 (by Lieven Dewitte) - Pratt & Whitney and subcontractor will pay $52 million to settle allegations they knowingly sold defective parts for F-15s and F-16s, the U.S. Department of Justice said on Friday.

Maintenance patch for Pratt & Whitney F100 Engine

The case centered on allegations that Pratt & Whitney supplied faulty turbine blades for F-15 and F-16 fighter jet engines between 1994 and 2003.

The blades, for the F-100 series engines, "failed to meet a critical design dimension," according to a Justice Department statement issued Friday. In at least once instance, in June 2003, faulty blades led to the crash of an F-16 in Arizona. The pilot ejected safely.

Pratt subcontractor PCC Airfoils LLC cast the blades. Pratt & Whitney drilled, finished, coated and supplied them to customers.

Pratt & Whitney was accused of suppling faulty turbine blades that failed to meet a critical design dimension between 1994 and 2003.

Pratt & Whitney called the allegations "unfounded" and said it chose to settle "because the U.S. Air Force is a highly valued customer and we did not see that going to trial was in either of our best interests."

Pratt & Whitney and the Justice Department entered mediated negotiations a year ago. The company voluntarily provided 54,000 replacement blades to the US Air Force and 42,000 blades to other customers as soon as the problem was identified. The company also inspected tens of thousands of parts to ensure that none of the estimated 3,000 engines in the field were at risk.

Pratt & Whitney's share of the penalty came to $45.5 million, plus $4.825 million in services for reinspecting "potentially serviceable blades bought by the Air Force," the Justice Department said, for a total of $52.325 million. PCC Airfoils will pay $2 million.

The government made its allegations under the False Claims Act and the case was brought by the National Procurement Fraud Task Force, formed in October 2006.

Last summer, the Pratt & Whitney encountered problems with engine blades it is building for the Short Takeoff Vertical Landing version of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, but it has developed a remedy.