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Whistleblower suit cites Rolls-Royce engine flaws

December 8, 2010

Rolls-Royce Corp. concealed repeated defects at an aircraft engine plant in Indianapolis and fired a safety official for reporting the problems, according to a whistleblower lawsuit filed in federal court.

Lawyers for Thomas McArtor said a federal court in Indianapolis unsealed his complaint Tuesday, 34 months after it was filed. His lawyer criticized the long-running secrecy.

"Aircraft manufacturers enjoy a special position of public trust," said Mike Kanovitz of Loevy & Loevy. "It is arrogant for any of them to pick and choose which defects the public gets to hear about. Aircraft operators and airline travelers deserve complete transparency so that they can evaluate the risks and take steps to protect themselves."

The Associated Press left several e-mail and telephone messages for London-based Rolls-Royce seeking comment Wednesday.

McArtor was a senior quality-control official for Rolls-Royce and the Federal Aviation Administration's chief designated airworthiness representative for the plant, according to the complaint. It said he worked there for 12 years before being fired in 2007.

The suit says the company cut quality controls to increase profits, then concealed information about an increase in defects from customers.

It says problems affect the Model 250, T56 and AE2100 engines, used in civilian and military aircraft. They include Bell helicopters, Saab turbo props, C130 transports, and the Kiowa military helicopter.

The suit says some engines from the plant have experienced 'catastrophic failures," including nine that have failed in Iraq, causing the loss of U.S. lives.

Rolls-Royce was the manufacturer at a different plant of a Trent 900 engine that blew apart Nov. 4 on superjumbo Airbus A380 passenger jet operated by Qantas. The plane had about 450 passengers aboard and made a safe emergency landing.

Rolls-Royce’s Indianapolis manufacturing facility employs about 4,300, making the British aerospace firm the city’s second-largest manufacturer behind Eli Lilly and Co.

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