Koito Industries president Takashi Kakegawa says he is sorry his company deceived regulators by supplying false safety test data on a staggering 150,000 aircraft seats. But the firm is going to need to give more than an apology to the estimated 43 operators affected.

Japanese regulators want Koito to retest its products to confirm their safety - a considerable task since the company may have been massaging the numbers for several years. Should the seats not meet standards, airworthiness directives for modification or removal are likely to be issued. And investigators will undoubtedly start combing through aircraft accident reports for links between Koito seats and survivability of crashes.

The European Aviation Safety Agency is not ruling out a directive. But for now, everything hinges on the tests, which will need to be carried out at independent sites. What makes the Koito case so serious is not just that a major manufacturer knowingly falsified information. It is that such a gross miscarriage of the rules passed unnoticed by Japanese regulators for so long.

The debacle couldn't happen at a worse time for Japanese industry, which is grappling with the fallout of car-maker Toyota's massive recalls. In an irony lost on no-one, Koito's parent is an affiliate of the troubled car maker. Now the question on everybody's mind is: will airlines face the equivalent of a recall on seats after Koito took a back seat on safety?

Source: Flight International