Global Airport News

Global Airport News

Airlines may be ordered to check tens of thousands of aircraft passenger seats made by Japanese manufacturer Koito Industries after a scandal over questionable safety data, European and US authorities said on Thursday.

Shares in the company plunged 33 percent after it said it had been told by Japan's transport ministry to improve business management over the falsification of fire resistance and strength data on plane seats.

Following recommendations from Japan's JCAB airworthiness authority, safety agencies on both sides of the Atlantic published draft directives that would order airlines to carry out checks of the seats.

The European Aviation Safety Agency said in its draft directive that it and JCAB had concluded that all data, both design and manufacturing, generated by Koito "had to be treated as suspect."

EASA said its proposal would mean Koito seats installed on planes up to a certain date, which has yet to be determined, would have to pass safety checks within two years or else be removed.

A similar proposal from the US Federal Aviation Administration would give airlines two to six years.

"This proposed (airworthiness directive) results from a determination that the affected seats and seating systems may not meet certain flammability and strength criteria," the FAA said in a request for comments on the proposal.

It said failure to meet test criteria could cause injuries to crew or passengers during an emergency landing or might accelerate the spread of a possible fire in an emergency.

The FAA said the checks would affect more than 40,000 seats on 278 aircraft on the US registry alone. It estimated the cost to US airlines of the exercise at USD$875,000.

Koito's seats are not installed on all Airbus and Boeing airliners since seating is one of the items airlines order directly from third-party suppliers when buying an aircraft.

In February, the Japanese Transport Ministry said Koito had delivered some 150,000 seats for about 1,000 planes worldwide.

Aircraft seats typically cost USD$2,300 for economy to as much as USD$150,000 in first class, according to the FAA.

Koito competes for sales of aircraft seats with companies including B/E Aerospace of the United States, France's Zodiac and Germany's Recaro.