Former employees put TECT Aerospace at center of federal investigation

Teresa Lee

Two former employees of TECT Aerospace in Wellington are being credited with starting a federal investigation into how the company has been making its parts since at least 2006, court documents revealed.

Complaints filed with the United States District Court in Wichita have lead to a federal investigation. Court documents received that “In requesting millions of dollars in payments for airplanes sold to the United States, Defendants falsely represented each time and airplane was sold that the wing spars and other components were manufactured in compliance with United States’ specifications.”

The sealed amended complaint against TECT alleges the company had “actual knowledge that they were not complying” to standards and continued to submit “false or fraudulent representations of compliance.”

TECT Aerospace’s Wellington facility was in charge of manufacturing wing spars — the main longitudinal beams of the airplane wings or tail that bear a significant load in flight — for Hawker Beechcraft. The parts are designated “fracture critical” by design, the documents said. The loss or breakage of a wing spar would “compromise the safety of flight. Fracture critical parts must be manufactured using processes that ensure their structural integrity is maintained.”

TECT was manufacturing the parts for Hawker Beechcraft as part of the JPATS program or the United States Air Force and United State’s Navy’s Joint Primary Aircraft Training System. The contract, awarded in 1995, would call for the delivery of 768 T-6A aircraft as early as 2016, the document revealed.

The document alleges TECT failed to comply with destructive inspection requirements, and even violated Hawker Beechcraft’s specifications by “among other things, ‘bashing’ with a sledgehammer fracture critical parts that were installed on airplanes that would be sold to the United States.” Hammers and pry bars were used to force the part to fit the “check fixture” supplied by Hawker Beechcraft. This process, known as “hot forming” has been banned by Hawker Beechcraft because it causes bumps and dings in the metal.

Former employees, Donald Minge, a former quality assurance director, and David Kiehl, a former plant manager and engineering manager at TECT’s Wellington facility, met with other employees on April 17, 2007 to discuss the re-work process for the spars, discovering the “bashing” and reporting it to those higher in the company. The two allege they were fired in retaliation of their attempts to stop the “bashing” at the plant and are seeking damages and civil penalties on their behalf, court document say.

Representatives for TECT Aerospace and Hawker Beechcraft were unavailable for comment.

Wellington Daily News