ROME (AP) — Police seized parts cannibalized from six Airbus A300 jets in a warehouse at Rome's main airport Saturday as investigators probed an international market in used airline parts suspected of being falsely certified as new or as properly inspected.
Milan daily Corriere della Sera said FBI agents were studying Italian investigators' work in the case for ties to the crash in November of an American Airlines A300 in New York City which killed 265 people.
More than 70 U.S. pilots have signed a statement saying Airbus A300 jets should be grounded until the cause of the crash is known. The pilots claim there is no way to adequately inspect the Airbus tails, which are made of a nonmetallic composite material. There are no procedures for using ultrasound or another method to look inside the composite.
Maj. Anselmi Mocci, of Italy's paramilitary fiscal police conducting the spare parts probe, told Italian state TV that many of the parts that were seized were manipulated or handled by unqualified people.
The seizure of two 6-foot high shipping containers of parts in the warehouse at Leonardo da Vinci airport came a day after police in Naples port confiscated three containers of airplane parts believed to have been ready for shipment to the United States. Both seizures are part of the probe led by Mocci.
Officials said the warehouse belongs to Panaviation, a company dealing in airplane parts. Calls to Panaviation offices in Rome and at Rome's other airport, Ciampino, went unanswered Saturday.
Rome daily Il Messaggero said six people have been arrested in the probe and four more are under investigation. The newspaper said the investigation began after a 1995 theft in an airplane hangar in Olbia.
"We sealed the containers because in our opinion the spare parts were disassembled without following regulations and without personnel qualified to do it," Mocci told the Italian news agency ANSA. "We contend that this can compromise the very safety of the parts taken from the airliners."
Among the parts reported seized were radar instruments and fuel gauges.
State TV and Corriere della Sera said investigators were trying to find out if the Minerva airlines Dornier-328 turboprop which plunged into the Mediterranean in 1999 when it ran off a runway during landing at Genoa's airport might have been furnished with parts from Panaviation. That accident killed four people.
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