The FAA has issued an NPRM calling for additional testing and possible removal of seats manufactured by Japan’s Koito Industries following a review by the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau (JCAB) that uncovered further falsification of testing data.
In January 2009, the JCAB advised the FAA that Koito used materials in its production seats that differed from those used in the seats subjected to flammability testing. At the time the FAA determined that the discrepancy didn’t present a so-called safety-of-flight issue, and thus chose not to issue an AD. However, a subsequent review of all in-service seats by the JCAB prompted Koito to disclose more discrepancies, including the falsification of static, dynamic and flammability testing on delivered seats.
As a result, the FAA and JCAB have concluded that the falsification of the various tests for the seats’ TSO could result in unsafe conditions during an emergency landing and in the event of a fire. The proposed AD would require a determination of whether or not affected Koito seats and seating systems, approved under TSO-C39b, TSO-C39c or TSO-C127a, comply with flammability, static strength and dynamic strength criteria.
While the FAA said it would address each case individually, an operator can demonstrate compliance if it can show that the seats in its fleet match new seats produced by Koito and tested under the supervision of the JCAB during its investigation. The agency also called on Boeing and Airbus to share information on what seat models their various customers use so that no more than one operator would need to conduct what amounts to the same test. In fact, said the FAA, the JCAB has already accomplished much of the grouping of similar seats during its efforts to ascertain the status of various designs. The JCAB data should help simplify the process of identifying models that need testing, according to the agency.
The FAA estimates that the AD would affect 40,365 passenger seats installed on 278 airplanes in the U.S. fleet. Replacement cost estimates range from $2,300 per economy seat in a narrowbody airplane to as high as $150,000 for a first class, lay-flat electrical seat used in widebody aircraft.
In February, Japan’s transport ministry announced that Koito had falsified test results and made unauthorized changes to as many as 150,000 seats supplied to 32 international airlines. “Fraudulent acts were conducted across the organization,” Koito president Takashi Kakegawa admitted at a February 8 press conference.