Seat makers benefit from Koito debacle

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Major aircraft seat manufacturers are absorbing the seat programmes that cannot be supported by embattled Japanese firm Koito Industries, which recently admitted to fabricating safety test results on as many as 150,000 seats in the world fleet.

Speaking to ATI and Flightglobal, Zodiac Seats CEO Adri Ruiter says: "We have accepted some short-flow orders from airlines that could not get Koito seats. We will be delivering seats to those airlines this summer."

Ruiter says the Zodiac seat organization - which includes C&D Zodiac, Sicma and Weber Aircraft - is "working with Boeing and Airbus and the airlines to find out what is the most realistic timeframe" for delivering seats for new aircraft, be that on the factory floor or post-delivery.

B/E Aerospace is also picking up business previously awarded to Koito. "Our Japanese competitor may not survive what they're going through. And we have done very well, and we expect to get some more orders here in the third and fourth quarters from customers which they've had. We've cherry-picked them," B/E executive chairman and CEO Amin Khoury said during a first quarter earnings conference call this week.

"We've basically selected those programmes and customers which we felt fit what we're trying to do. We've been successful in all but one single campaign to get every programme that we wanted from the Japanese competitor, which I tend to believe may not survive this," adds Khoury.

Recaro Aircraft Seating is also understood to be absorbing seat programmes previously won by Koito.

The new business follows Koito's stunning revelation that it falsified safety test results on as many as 150,000 seats on 1,000 aircraft used by 32 carriers. Evidence from the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau (JCAB) highlights three areas where Koito fabricated results - 16g and 9g test data and flammability data.

EASA and the FAA are working to assess whether seats manufactured by Koito and currently fitted to in-service aircraft meet airworthiness standards.

In the meantime, airline operators that selected Koito seats for new aircraft, including Continental Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways International and others, have experienced delivery delays. A number of Boeing 787 customers also ordered Koito seats.

Some aircraft interiors specialists say Koito's deception likely represents one of the biggest events to occur in aircraft seating.

Zodiac's Ruiter believes Koito's problems are not systemic in the aircraft seating industry. He notes that FAA and EASA oversight in the USA and Europe, respectively, is "very strict" and that periodic audits would make it "very difficult for us not to follow the standards".