Saturday, January 14, 2012

15,000 fire extinguishers removed from planes worldwide after Welsh factory owner's fraud

15,000 fire extinguishers removed from planes worldwide after Welsh factory owner's fraud

by Elwyn Roberts
Jan 13 2012

A MAN who sent shockwaves through the global airline industry by supplying substandard gas to onboard fire extinguishers has been jailed for two and a half years.
More than 15,000 fire extinguishers were removed from planes worldwide because of Eric Andrew Lyon, 47.
His actions sparked a huge investigation and led to the changing of guidelines for the production of fire extinguishers and fire suppressant systems in aircraft in Britain, Europe and in America.
And at the time his actions were discovered it was believed he had put the lives of thousands of aircraft passengers at risk.
Mold Crown Court heard the halon gas Lyon supplied for fire extinguishers was not up to a required standard and that he had altered certificates.
The gas had to be 99% pure but Lyon changed analyses certificates when his samples failed to meet that high standard. Some were later found to be as low as 60%.
The gas, recycled by Lyon at his company Lyontech Engineering Ltd at Flints Manor Industrial Estate, was used by manufacturers at home and abroad in 2007, 2008 and the start of 2009.
The court, sitting in Chester, heard the gas was no longer manufactured because of its harmful effects to the ozone layer.
It was not used in everyday fire extinguishers but because of the importance of being able to prevent catastrophes in the air it was used in airplanes under strict guidelines.
When the fraud was discovered it sent shockwaves throughout the aircraft industry and aviation safety authorities worldwide.
Prosecutor Wyn Lloyd Jones told the court that while Lyon had admitted a s390,000 fraud upon his customers, the seriousness of the case outweighed the high value.
There was a substantial breach of trust in this case. Because the gas was being supplied to the airline industry there was at the very least a real risk that public safety could have been compromised, he said.
The motive was greed and profit.
Lyon, of Oakmount House, Northop Country Park, near Mold, admitted 25 fraud offences and was jailed for 2.5 years.
Judge Niclas Parry told him: By your activity, you caused the potential withdrawal of aircraft from service both in this country, in Europe and in the USA.
You caused emergency directives regarding the recall of safety equipment to be issued worldwide.
It has subsequently transpired that the breaching of the regulations may not have had such an impact upon public safety as had initially been feared.
That knowledge is important for the sake of future passenger confidence.
But the reality is that at the time you were offending you could not have been certain of that and you continued to ignore the risk regardless.
The judge said Lyon had s operation was close to being to a monopoly because of his expertise and said he abused that position in a systematic, sophisticated fraud achieved with total disregard for the potential risk to public safety.
It beggars belief that a man of your experience in such a specialised activity acted in such a cavalier fashion, showing utter disregard for the potential consequences, the judge said.
Lyon was not charged with any airline safety offences following an investigation by the Civil Aviation Authority.
It was passed to North Wales Police who carried out a fraud investigation.
But the Aviation Regulation Enforcement Department of the CAA had carried out a full investigation into the risk to flight safety caused by fire.
Halon was a highly effective fire suppressant widely used in the aircraft industry and it was estimated that about 15,000 fire extinguishers had to be replaced because the gas was outside specification.
Following tests in America it had been found that gas with a 90% purity was just as effective as that with 99%.
But Mr Lloyd Jones said the defendant did not know that at the time and some of the purities in the gas he supplied were far less than that.
The probe by the CAA, the European Aircraft Safety Agency and the Federal Agency in America meant thousands of extinguishers were recalled and replaced by compliant products.
Paul Abraham, defending, said his client denied his actions were down to greed.
He was not supplying a product that was rubbish to make money, he said.

Read More

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.