Koito pledges to support airline customers as EASA, FAA issue ADs

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After urging safety regulators not to issue airworthiness directives covering its aircraft seats, embattled Japanese manufacturer Koito Industries has pledged to support its airline customers as they implement new US FAA and EASA ADs, which could prove very costly for the industry to implement.

"We're glad to be turning the page on this unfortunate chapter and working closely with the JCAB [Japan Civil Aviation Bureau], FAA, and EASA to implement responsible regulatory steps, out of an abundance of caution, to confirm the safety and continued airworthiness of Koito aircraft seats," said a Koito spokesman.

Added Koito president Takashi Kakegawa: "Ensuring safety for the travelling public is our highest priority and we'll continue to do everything we can to help our airline customers meet strict safety testing requirements, obtain replacement parts, and comply fully with these airworthiness directives."

Early last year it was revealed that Koito falsified safety test results on as many as 150,000 seats on 1,000 aircraft. Multiple sources told ATI and Flightglobal that Koito went so far as to use its own rubber stamp to falsely indicate that some seats had received approval from the JCAB.

EASA, in its AD, said the JCAB confirmed that Koito records, showing evidence of falsification, could not be deemed complete. Examples included: fictitious dynamic test pulse plots inserted into test reports following failure to meet required certification requirements; flammability test coupons not representative of production parts; and fictitious deformation values entered in test reports when values exceeded the maximum allowed.

"JCAB and EASA have concluded that all data (both design and manufacturing) generated by Koito must be treated as suspect," said EASA.

The FAA noted: "It is a fact that some seats have failed during testing. Failure of the seat, in combination with an emergency landing, is considered catastrophic."

Koito seats and seating system models are installed on aircraft manufactured by Airbus, Boeing, McDonnell Douglas, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, and Fokker Services.

Myriad airlines are impacted by the ADs, which become effective on 1 August and require a determination of whether affected seats and seating systems - and their components - are compliant with certain FAA and EASA criteria related to flammability, static strength, and dynamic strength.

If compliance is not established, operators must remove the non-compliant seats and seating systems from the affected fleet, an endeavour that could, by some estimates, cost the industry hundreds of millions of dollars.

The time limits for determining whether seats and seating systems comply with FAA regulations range between two and six years, although the EASA AD, unlike the FAA AD, has set a maximum limit of 10 years for replacement of affected materials installed on in-service aircraft, even if seats pass all requirements.

Koito in a statement said it "long ago expressed regret over its employees' actions that contributed to the necessity of issuing the ADs" and that is has overhauled its management, quality assurance systems, training, and procedures to prevent a repeat of such actions.

The firm's comments come after it urged regulators not to move forward with AD action. During the comment period for the FAA's then proposed AD, for instance, "Koito submitted that no actual unsafe condition has been verified even for production seats where discrepancies existed between drawings and materials used to show compliance," said the FAA.

"Koito added that the NPRM states only that a potential unsafe condition could exist. Koito submitted that noncompliance with regulations does not necessarily equate to an unsafe condition."

Dismissing Koito's requests to withdraw its proposal, the FAA said in its AD: "EASA and the FAA have reviewed the data generated by Koito, under the oversight of JCAB, and we have determined that this AD is necessary to address the identified unsafe condition.

"In addition, certification of these seats was obtained through false pretenses, and thus, until the seats are re-certified in whole, they need to be appropriately marked and actions must be done in accordance with this AD."

Meanwhile, aircraft seat manufacturers, such as B/E Aerospace, Recaro and Zodiac have been absorbing the seat programmes that cannot be supported by Koito. But many airlines, including Continental Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways International and V Australia, have suffered aircraft delivery delays due to the Koito debacle.