Defense manufacturer Sikorsky is in hot water again. WTNH News Channel 8 Investigative Reporter Alan Cohn recently received internal Sikorsky documents detailing difficulties with their parts division (pdf). These new documents bring to light an incident that occurred when a Navy helicopter was making a cross country flight. After the shaky ride, the crew men were shocked to find that the “TRB [Tail Rotor Blade] torque tube” had “departed the aircraft.”
Essentially, a very important part fell off the helicopter in flight, placing all those on board in an extremely hazardous situation.
This recent find has finally brought George Klug, Sikorsky’s Vice President for Quality, out of the wood work to explain what is happening and how these faulty parts found their way on to United States Navy Seahawk helicopters.
"No manufacturing system is perfect [,] we strive for perfection [but] we don't always reach it so getting people to identify the issues to address is what we're about here," stated Krug in the interview with Cohn. Unfortunately, according to Cohn’s report last night, 41 more instances have been found.
What could be the cause for this inability to reach perfection? One possibility is that Sikorsky has cut back on their quality inspectors from 70 to 8. Krug claims that many of these inspectors have been moved to the facilities where the parts are manufactured to improve quality control. If that were the case, the number of issues Sikorsky is having should not be increasing at such a rapid pace.
According to another internal document from Sikorsky, their “High Visibility Issues” have been on the rise for years and reached their highest point this past January. The Defense Contracts Management Agency (DCMA) is also having a hard time with the quality of parts from Sikorsky.
With all of these quality control troubles with Sikorsky’s parts, it may be a good thing they did not win the award to build the new “Marine 1" helicopter for our commander in Chief. If parts were to fall off of the president’s helicopter, I’m sure Sikorsky would have had a lot more explaining to do.