Counterfeit aircraft parts in the USA

  • 7-8% of world trade is in counterfeit goods.

  • Counterfeits account for $450 billion in global lost sales.

  • By 2015, the value of counterfeit goods is estimated to reach $1.7 trillion.

If people were to commonly know that an estimated 10% of aeroplane parts are counterfeit, they’d probably think twice about flying. The sale and use of counterfeit goods in everyday life is widespread, but the dangers are rarely discussed.

And herein lies the problem, not many airlines are willing to admit that their planes may be full of faulty parts, and until something dangerous or life threatening actually happens, it’s probable that this will stay under the proverbial radar. Not many people are willing to fix something that is not yet broken.

More and more frequently, airlines are outsourcing the maintenance of their aircrafts, enabling oversight and ensuring the difficulty to correctly track where work is done and, most importantly, what parts are used. Although it is clearly illegal for engineers to use fake parts, with the temptations of million dollar contracts on offer, it would appear that for some people, the profit outweighs the safety of those that will be onboard the aforementioned crafts.

It will always be difficult to quantify how prevalent certain counterfeits are, however in fiscal year 2009, the Customs and Border Protection Service reportedly seized almost $4 million in counterfeit devices such as networking equipment and semiconductor devices used by the aerospace industry.

Even those who we’d assume would be immune to such counterfeit scandal have fallen victim, with the US Military (who arguably have very tight security) being targeted.

US Military Aircrafts

John McCain said on the issue of counterfeit parts that they “pose an increasing risk to our national security, to the reliability of our weapons systems and to the safety of our men and women in uniform...We cannot risk a ballistic missile interceptor missing its target, or a helicopter pilot unable to fire his weapons, or display units failing in aircraft cockpits, or any other system failure, all because of a counterfeit electronic part. This legislation will inject some much needed integrity, transparency, and accountability into the defense supply chain, help customs officials intercept these counterfeits, and ensure that prosecutors bring the full weight of justice down on those who traffic in military counterfeits.”

Consequences of using counterfeit parts:

  • Schedule slippage

  • Added cost

  • Reduced performance

  • Poor (or unknown) reliability

  • Product failure, affecting both

  • Personnel Safety

  • Mission Success

  • Decline in mission readiness

  • Lower life expectancy

A statement by U.S. Senator Charles Schumer read that the number of counterfeit electronics used by the military increased by 250 percent between 2005 and 2008. In 2010, the United States Navy alone purchased 59,000 counterfeit microchips for missiles, transponders and other military equipment that originated from China.


One of the most shocking instances of counterfeiting within an aircraft is the discovery of fake components on Air Force One in 1995. Since then, an investigation was led by two American Senators; John McCain and Carl Levin in November 2011, where it was found that there were 1800 cases in which suspected counterfeit parts had been installed in U.S military defence equipment, 70% of which originated from China.

The Senate Armed Services Committee found counterfeit parts on at least seven aircrafts which were deployed to Afghanistan. Many of the counterfeit parts were described as "scrap sold as new" which littered the defence supply chain, ultimately endangering the lives of American troops.

In response to these findings, Congress has amended the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act to include that the Secretary of Defence must issue guidance on defence acquisition policies and ensure systems for the search, findings and stopping of counterfeit parts.

Steven Foster of the NASA Dryden Flight Research Centre has said that “counterfeit parts makers are becoming more sophisticated and attuned to the market, making it a growing problem for industry and government”. It was reported that suppliers selling counterfeit parts increased by 63% from 2002 to 2011,

In 2005, 3,868 incidents of counterfeit electronic goods were found in the US Military. Most of the incidents involved counterfeit computer chips, commonly used in fighter jets and airplanes and in 2008 there was an increase to 9,539 new high-risk vendors.

Two years ago, the Aerospace Industrial Association assessed that there might be a 5 percent to 15 percent annual decrease in air weapon and system reliability as a result of the widespread penetration of the supply chains by counterfeits.

It is increasingly becoming easier for anyone to acquire parts, with a simple internet search offering what look to be legitimate parts, but as they have not been tested to military standard, they are unsafe and illegal.

It is necessary to shut websites like this one down in order to stop the imminent danger of counterfeiting at the root cause.


And this is where brand protection comes in. NetNames are well known for their fast and efficient take downs of outlets that sell counterfeit goods online. Most notably is their relationship with Chinese online markets such as TaoBao. This relationship is key in ensuring that NetNames are a step ahead in stopping any unlawful online sales.

The main reason this relationship is so successful is NetNames strong language prowess; with 36 different languages in house, spoken by analysts who ensure the correct and precise takedown of counterfeit goods that could potentially harm a brand. Particularly, NetNames Chinese speaking abilities help a great deal in communications with the Chinese markets who are notorious for their abilities to counterfeit goods and seem to appear time and time again.

With counterfeiting constantly growing, especially in China, strong business relationships are necessary to ensure the appropriate take down of potentially harmful material and websites.


By Olivia Cain.