Tuesday, 19 April 2011
Why It Is Impossible To Steal Aircraft Engines
Engines generally don't do a walkabout. Not huge, unique and expensive aircraft engines, and certainly not military aircraft engines.
I've noticed that the general public seems to take this situation rather calmly - either that, or Malaysians have long gone past being cynical.
This has been an interesting topic within aviation circles though. Most parts and components in an aircraft are very unique and can only be used in that model, or more specifically, weight variant.
Calculations for center of gravity, aerodynamic profile, fuel efficiency, take-off weight, range, vibration, automatic control, airframe structure and a host of other aspects revolve around the engine.
Some aircraft even have 2 different engine options and each configuration has to be calculated with a whole new loop of loads.
For instance, the Airbus A380 used the Rolls Royce Trent 900 engines that were especially designed for it. There is also a Pratt & Whitney (PW3000?) configuration, and each aircraft (which has its own Manufacturing Serial Number) has to be analysed and tested before being certified as airworthy.
So, when someone tells me that an aircraft engine found its way to South America, I find it very astounding indeed, for various reasons.
Firstly, there is a lot of paperwork involved. The aviation industry does not simply allow people to fit in engines onto planes on any whim or fancy. There has to be routine maintenance checks, which will require numerous signatures.
Before any aircraft engine is released, it will have to undergo thorough inspection, otherwise it will be rejected by the airworthiness authorities of whichever country that will certify the aircraft which adopts this new engine. Those are the rules and regulations of the aviation industry.
Often, the original equipment manufacturers will have to be informed as "after-sales service" is a very significant part of aviation equipment. In this case, especially because it is a military aircraft, the Americans want Malaysia to comply with their export control regulations.
Secondly, aircraft parts are fragile. They have to be specially packed and clearly marked when being shipped. It is not a matter of slipping it into the car boot and driving off. They are also quite heavy, which means substantial equipment will be needed to move it around.
Even car engines are heavy, what more an aircraft engine!
Thirdly, considering there is paperwork involved and it happens to be a very large item, it simply cannot be stolen. Charging two low-level technicians is a most ludicrous attempt at pacifying the masses, much less the professionals in the industry.
The diplomat (POLCOUNS - political counsel?) McFeeters clearly does not believe it was stolen. His cable asks for advice if the arms export control act has been violated.
It could only be violated if it was sold, not stolen.
To slip a massive engine like that out of an air force base is even more unbelievable. Security in military bases are very high and no one can go in or out without some form of identification. From deduction, it requires more than 2 people to carry out the operation of relocating those engines.
This very strongly implies that there were people very high up who approved these operations.
As McFeeters suggests, "The Prime Minister will have a personal stake, given his past role as Defense Minister, and that could explain in part his prominence in the media coverage of this issue thus far."