FAA Feedback: Freddy’s Back!

Oct. 7, 2014
The unapproved parts nightmare

Attention aircraft technicians, parts room managers, pilots and operators - Freddy the junkman is back with a vengeance! You remember him, he’s the fellow who brought you questionable reliability, reduced safety, premature parts failure, accidents and angry customers by selling you “unapproved” parts (junk) at bargain basement prices.

Unfortunately, there are now too many Freddys. He has many names, comes from many countries and uses many disguises. On any given day he might visit you in your hangar or repair station representing himself as a salesman from a “new” parts distributor. Other days he sends you an ad about a “going out of business” sale or “surplus parts bonanza.” Sometimes, Freddy takes the form of your best friend or a trusted parts salesman who has “such a deal” for you.

While there are many Freddys with many faces, they usually have only two operating pitches or cons to peddle their junk. The first con is the one used by “the amateur.” The amateur Freddy doesn’t want a long-term relationship, he just wants to sell you junk parts quickly.

He usually shows up unannounced with a truck full of aviation parts. Then he pulls you over into a corner and tells you a believable lie to set you up for the con.

The lie goes something like, “My brother-in-law was a parts distributor in the Midwest and now he’s ill, can’t keep up the business, and he needs the money for treatments, etc., etc., and I’m helping him out by selling off his inventory.”

Most of amateur Freddy’s parts are look-alike relatively low-cost items or factory seconds or parts crudely made to look like new. To avoid a close inspection of his junk parts and blind you to the truth, amateur Freddy will dangle a part price tag in front of your eyes that is 20 to 30 percent below what you normally get the part for. If you bite now he stands to make an enormous profit.

However, if you happen to notice there’s no PMA or TSO markings on the parts or the serial numbers look suspicious, he’ll squirm and lie some more.

When you question him further and he feels you’re not buying his “lie,” he’ll modify the con and confess that the paperwork is lost or stolen. If you take the parts immediately, however, he’ll drop the price to 60 percent or more below wholesale.

Many cannot resist a promise of a 60 percent profit. So Freddy makes another sale and drives off with your money and your integrity in his pocket.

The second technique involves the technically sophisticated con worked by Freddy who might be a parts salesman for a respectable parts distributor house or a person who works in the parts room of the repair station or FBO across the field.

Sophisticated Freddy might also be a large parts company that’s now in the business of selling junk parts.

Since sophisticated Freddy works in high dollar items, he always works with a partner I call “machine shop Freddy.” There are several kinds of machine shop Freddy’s. One type works all day making aviation parts for a legitimate aviation company. At night you’d find him working in his garage machine shop duplicating the manufacturer’s part right down to the inspection stamp, paperwork and box the part comes in.

Other machine shop Freddys work full time making junk parts look new again by welding improper repairs on turbine blades or cleaning up parts that have been scrapped because they’ve reached time or cycle limits.

Machine shop Freddy then sells his “part” to sophisticated Freddy who, as a representative for an established respectable business, sells his “unapproved parts” along with FAA approved parts.

Since sophisticated Freddy wants a long-term relationship with you, he’ll offer you, one of his best customers, a 10 to 30 percent discount on a certain “line” of parts.

This kind of Freddy is perhaps the worst kind of aviation thief because we aviation maintenance personnel are unaware that we’re paying for an “unapproved part.” Sophisticated Freddy not only steals our money but he steals our trust in the system of aviation standards, and by doing so puts not only our customers’ lives at great risk but also our jobs.

Why should you try to stop Freddy?

The most important reason is aviation safety. Bad parts don’t meet an approved standard such as a type design, parts manufacturer approval, technical standard order or carry a valid maintenance release. These parts are a complete unknown, and any unknown in aviation is unacceptable.

The second reason is that over a relatively short period of time, the price of aviation parts across the board will rise! Why? The answer lies in the parts manufacturer’s ability to deal with competitors who can underprice them 60 percent or more. Freddy’s discount junk parts cut deeply into the profit margin of legitimate manufacturers. So to stay in business they have to raise prices to pay for the overhead.

How do we stop Freddy?

Like the drug trafficker, the Freddy who sells unapproved parts needs you for a customer. Without a demand side for unapproved aviation parts, the supply side will dry up. We can stop Freddy by killing him economically.


You, the technician on the hangar floor, hold the ultimate responsibility of determining whether or not the part you are about to put on the aircraft is “FAA Approved.” If you get a part that is not in a box, the paperwork is “lost” or there is no OEM part/serial number, or a TSO or PMA number, challenge the part’s source.

It doesn’t seem fair saddling the technician with the additional responsibility of being a junk part detective but you are the last one who inspects the part, installs the part and approves the aircraft or product for return to service. If not the technician, who else can the FAA hold responsible to determine if a part is approved or unapproved? Freddy?


The FAA cannot solve this problem alone. You, in industry, have to get the word to us in government who can then move against Freddy in the courts.

In August, the folks in FAA Aircraft Manufacturing Division, AIR-200 issued an Advisory Circular (AC) 21-29 Reporting Suspected Unapproved Parts. This AC gives you instructions on how to report suspected unapproved parts by using FAA Form 8120-11. The form should be completed and forwarded immediately to:

Federal Aviation Administration System Surveillance and Analysis Division AIR-300

P.O. Box 17030, Washington, D.C. 20041

You can pick up the AC at any Flight Standards District Office. If you hate filling out forms you can still call the FAA Safety Hotline number (800) 255-1111, and give us the suspected unapproved parts information. Either way, do it now! Don’t let Freddy become your worst nightmare.

This article originally appeared in the November/December 1991 issue of Aircraft Technician