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Monday, February 8, 2010

Toyota safety problem kind of extended to airlines seats (Updated)

(Update: added one more paragraph regarding european ban on Koito seats)

For those of you who have been keeping track of news on the "Dark Side", you should know ANA has postponed the introduction of their new 777-300ER cabins (good news for JAL). The reason behind this is safety issues of the premium economy seats manufactured by Koito Industries, whose parent company is 20% owned by Toyota. And as expected JAL is also a client of this Japanese seats manufacturer and is affected by this safety recall.

According to Bloomberg, 150,000 seats in around 1,000 aircraft are affected by this safety recall. Koito has been falsifying test results and making unauthorized design changes on these seats. There are 32 airlines affected by this recall.

According to Koito President Takashi Kakewaga, "the fraudulent acts were conducted across the company" and it can track down to mid-1990s, as far back as Koito have records! So those unsafe seats have been flying for 10-15 years and they only found out about this recently!?!?!

It will take a while before all of those seats will be repaired. Koito will submit the repair plan to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) by February 26 2010. Koito will prioritize the repairs. The top priority ones will be fixed by end of May, and the remaining ones will be fixed by December 31 2010. So roughly another year of unsafe seats in the air!

Meanwhile JAL and ANA have been given permissions to continue flying their aircraft until they are fixed. JAL and ANA have 184 and 141 aircraft with Koito's seats installed. But it is uncleared how many of those planes require repairs.

I am actually surprised MLIT didn't conduct a further investigation when they found out Koito falsified fire resistance test data on JAL domestic First class seats' partitions last year. Repairs have been performed to fix those seats on JAL 777's and that's it. If a company is found falsifying test data on one product, they could have been doing the same thing on other products as well. Especially safety is the top priority in aviation, MLIT should have been more proactive in enforcing all safety requirements have been met.

I know the JAL domestic First class seats and JAL Skysleeper Solo seats are made by Koito. But JAL definitely doesn't have 184 aircraft with those F seats installed. So my guess is the some of the seats in economy class are probably made by Koito as well. For those of you flying on the US routes, the seats on the new 777-300ERs are not made by Koito! So I am "safe" at least on my transpacific sector :P

Update: Apparently European authorities have banned Koito's seats from installing on Airbus planes since last September because Koito is no longer trustworthy. So what has MLIT been doing all these times!?!? They really dropped the ball on this. And don't give me the excuse that you have been focusing on JAL. Ensuring flight safety is a higher priority than that!


2 comments:

  1. wow. the Japanese are dropping the ball. This is destroying their image of producing high standards/good quality product and great service. Back in 2007, a Hokkaido cookie company falsified expiry date on their cookies (http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nb20071123a3.html), that was bad enough already for the Japanese. And now this with Toyota stuff, and the airline seats. *sigh*

    This is serious stuff. I'm disappointed MLIT is coming down on this so lightly.


    Mmm...I may have to rethinking flying on a Japanese Airline the next time I fly.

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  2. Yes, I am really disappointed with MLIT too. They *really* dropped the ball this time. Koito has been banned from installing on Airbus since LAST SEPTEMBER ( http://www.businessweek.com/news/2010-02-08/airbus-banned-from-using-koito-plane-seats-after-safety-alert.html) and yet MLIT did NOTHING until 4 months later? Maybe they are too busy dealing with JAL...

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