Suit claims GE shipped defective engine parts

 - January 29, 2007, 6:37 AM

A former employee of GE Aircraft Engines claims the company knowingly shipped defective parts built during a 10-year period at its factory in Madisonville, Ky. The charges came to light in a $64.4 million “whisteblower” lawsuit filed by former quality-control engineer Terri Brown, unsealed in late November at the request of the Courier-Journal of Louisville.

The suit, filed in 2002 by the federal government on behalf of Brown, charges that from 1991 to 2001 the Madisonville plant shipped defective turbine blades for various GE engines, including the CF34 turbofan–used in the Embraer 170/190 series and Bombardier Challenger and CRJ.

In the suit Brown also claims that managers retaliated against her for reporting the alleged problems and that other employees pushed her down a flight of stairs in an act of retribution, leaving her permanently disabled. GE has denied the allegations in the lawsuit.

Separately, an internal report issued by GE concluded that a mislabeled casting used in a turbine blade made in Madisonville caused one of the GE90 engines in a British Airways Boeing 777 to catch fire in late August, forcing the crew to make an emergency landing in Houston. GE insists, however, that the problem had nothing to do with a defect, but rather a routing error, and that no one has ever tied defects in blades made in Madisonville to any malfunction in a GE engine.