• Fri. Sep 23rd, 2022

Lawsuit alleges ‘counterfeit’ parts may have contributed to pilot’s death

ByRandall B. Phelps

Sep 15, 2022

“We represent the widow, and she wants to know why her husband died,” Brauchle said.

“The USAF Research Laboratory has determined that the counterfeit parts may have contributed to the malfunctioning of 1st Lt. David J. Schmitz’s DRS,” the lawsuit states. “Upon information or belief, LOCKHEED, COLLINS, RISI and TELEDYNE knew or should have known that the DRS units contained counterfeit parts.”

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The AFRL is headquartered at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

According to the lawsuit: Air Force pilot Schmitz, “suffered serious injuries and was ultimately killed” when he ejected from his F-16 “Fighting Falcon” plane, but his ejection seat Advanced Concept did not perform as expected when its “digital sequencer recovery”, or DRS mechanism, malfunctioned.

The suit alleges that after Schmitz’s death, the AFRL determined that his ejection system’s “malfunctioning” DRS contained “six counterfeit metal-oxide-semiconductor field-effect transistors (MOSFETs), three chips suspected serial flash memory chips and a suspected parallel flash memory chip.

Neither the Air Force nor the AFRL are accused in the lawsuit. Brauchle said the “Feres” legal doctrine prohibits military spouses from suing the government after active-duty service members are killed in the line of duty.

A Power Point presentation that plaintiffs’ attorneys obtained “suggests that based on the physical (evidence), which the evidence they (Air Force investigators) saw, they suspected the parts were counterfeit,” Brauchle said. The Air Force intended to send those exhibits for further testing, but the attorney said he had not seen those results.

Brauchle said the Air Force denied his request for additional information about further testing. But he added: “Based on all the things they were identifying, boy, it seemed pretty damn clear.”

A former Air Force C-141 navigator, Brauchle said counterfeit parts “have been around in the Air Force for decades.”

An AFRL representative said on Wednesday it could not arrange an interview about the lawsuit or the issues it raises. Requests for comment have been sent to Collins Aerospace and Teledyne Technologies Inc. media contacts.

“In general, we have a habit of not commenting on ongoing litigation,” said a spokeswoman for Lockheed Martin.

The lawsuit covers all economic and non-economic damages authorized by law.

The Air Force Times first reported the lawsuit.