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 - June 16, 2009, 7:02 AM

Chromalloy CF6 gas turbine blades have reached the 10,000 flight-hour mark for the first time with an unidentified major airline. The blades are produced by BELAC, Chromalloy’s joint venture with various commercial carriers who are attempting to avoid the high cost of original equipment manufacturer (OEM) blades by using alternative parts manufacturer approval (PMA) blades.

These are “a proven alternative to new OEM blades,” said San Antonio, Texas-based Chromalloy. PMA has become a generic label for any non-OEM part and gained widespread attention when Pratt & Whitney announced that it would manufacture high-pressure turbine (HPT) blades for CFM International engines. It is thus a fast-growing sector of the aerospace industry.

“This is a significant milestone by the fleet leader of BELAC’s CF6-80C2 HPT blades,” said Chong Yi, president of Oldsmar, Florida-based BELAC. “Our blades are subject to the same type of rigorous engineering design and manufacturing processes and FAA scrutiny as OEM blades,” added Yi. The company did not specify the scale of the savings that could be made by carriers using its blades, but it can be as much as 30 to 40 percent.

PMA parts are common in the U.S. but have raised suspicion in Europe and elsewhere, although they have nothing to do with counterfeit parts. However, aircraft appraisers warn that such parts can affect the resale value of aircraft and can cause problems where prohibited by the terms of a lease. The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has developed a plan whereby FAA-approved PMA parts can be used but does not yet have an equivalent to the FAA PMA approval process. In fact, by definition under the FAA process, PMA parts must “meet or exceed the performance, reliability and durability specifications of OEM parts,” explained Chromalloy.