Defective Fighter Jet Engines Place U.S. Pilots in Jeopardy
Those in the military whose careers involve protecting us deserve the very best tools and supplies we can give them so they can perform their jobs safely. We previously told you about alleged False Claims Act (FCA) violations by the Boeing Company that endangered military personnel flying Air Force planes. Now, a whistleblower has come forward with FCA allegations that Pratt & Whitney sold the U.S. government defective fighter jet engines. The whistleblower also claims that the company manipulated test results to produce falsely-acceptable readings.
The Whistleblower’s Story
Engineer Peter J. Bonzani Jr. is suing United Technologies Corporation (UTC), the parent company of Pratt & Whitney, for FCA violations he says he witnessed. Bonzani claims the jet engine maker hid a defective spray coating process that occurred during the manufacturing process for F-100 and F-119 military engines used in F-15 and F-16 fighter jets. His FCA accusations involve United Technologies’ submitting false claims by using falsified records and certifications to obtain payment from the federal government.
The engineer worked first as a contractor and later as a full-time employee of Pratt & Whitney at the company’s East Hartford, Connecticut, location from September 2012 through November 2015. He provided expertise in thermal spray coating processes and robotic programming and was characterized in the whistleblower complaint as the “go-to” person for issues in these areas.
According to Bonzani, problems with the spraying process and the fraudulent manipulation of test results started when the work was moved from the East Hartford plant to the Middletown facility in 2012. He claims that Middletown was not using the correct extension on their plasma spray gun, preventing proper sealing from occurring deep inside the engines. The complaint states, “These seals are essential to engine function, engine wear and engine safety.”
Bonzani alleges that, less than 24 hours after he reported sealing failures during quality control testing, his laptop was seized and he was escorted out of the East Hartford office. Ninety days later, he was fired.
While the suit was filed under seal in 2016, the information is coming to light now because the government declined to intervene in the case. This decision on the government’s part led to the unsealing of the case, revealing Bonzani’s identity and the suit’s details.
Bonzani believes that production problems with the military jet engines are tied to similar issues with the geared turbofan engines manufactured by UTC and sold to major commercial airlines. The turbofan engines have been the subject of scrutiny in the U.S. and in other countries around the world; India grounded 11 planes, questioning their safety, in March, 2018.
Pratt & Whitney has publicly stated that they failed to finish durability testing of the turbofan engines. Bonzani thinks that the durability testing issues in both commercial and military engine production are either the same or very similar.
The company has denied the whistleblower’s accusations, commenting, “There is absolutely no merit to these claims. We intend to defend this case aggressively.”
Despite the government’s decision not to intervene, Bonzani intends to proceed with his case, asking for twice the amount of pay he would have received had he not been let go by Pratt & Whitney. He also wants his legal fees reimbursed. Though he could take home a substantial award if he wins his FCA case, Bonzani says he’s not interested in a big payoff, having stated, “I’m mostly interested in everybody’s safety.”
Working with whistleblowers tirelessly to shed light on fraudulent practices.
If you think you have the facts needed to bring a whistleblower case, the experienced whistleblower attorneys at the Louthian Law Firm can review your case and help you file the appropriate disclosure statement. Under some circumstances, the government will intervene, or join in your lawsuit.
Your chances of succeeding are greater if your whistleblower claim is substantive, clear, and to the point. Because of this, meeting with a qualified whistleblower attorney can increase your chances of winning. The Louthian Law Firm can help you form your claim so that the government will be more inclined to intervene in your case. Sometimes, government intervention can increase the chances of recovering reward money. But even if the government decides not to intervene, it could still be a good idea to pursue your case. If you decide to do so, our strong support system can assist you through every step of the process.
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