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FBI PROBING CHARGES THAT GE HID RESULTS OF AIRCRAFT ENGINE TESTS

SHARE FBI PROBING CHARGES THAT GE HID RESULTS OF AIRCRAFT ENGINE TESTS

- The FBI is investigating allegations that General Electric Co. officials suppressed test results showing 7,000 jet aircraft engines produced at its Evendale, Ohio, plant might have electric flaws that can produce fires or sudden loss of power, published reports said Friday.

The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer reported the federal investigation started two weeks ago after the Justice Department began seeking at least $100 million in civil damages from GE over engine tests reported by a whistleblower last December.The engines are used on passenger airliners, military planes and on Air Force One.

In a lawsuit that was unsealed Thursday in Cincinnati U.S. District Court, the government said "these GE engines unnecessarily endanger the health and well-being of pilots, maintenance service personnel and passengers, including a very real likelihood of loss of life."

"Air Force One, the aircraft used most commonly by the president of the United States, is also prone to an electrical system breakdown, engine malfunction or worse because of GE's fraud," the lawsuit said.

GE has denied the allegations and said its engines have the best safety and reliability record in the world.

Federal officials said the suspect jet engines power some of the Air Force and Navy's jets, including the F-14 and F-16 fighters. Other jets are the B-2 Stealth bomber and the B-1 bomber. The engines also power Boeing 747s and the European-manufactured Airbus.

A whistleblower, Ian Johnson, an electrical engineer and a citizen of Great Britain, worked at GE's Ohio jet-engine plant for seven years. He filed his lawsuit under the False Claims Act on Dec. 3. Attorney General Janet Reno authorized the Justice Department to take over Johnson's lawsuit last month, after FBI agents made a preliminary review of his claims, the newspaper said.

According to the lawsuit, the jet engines can be subject to electromagnetic interference, a phenomenon that's led to bans of laptop computers, radios and other electrical devices aboard commercial aircraft.

Under the False Claims Act, Johnson can collect up to 25 percent of whatever damages, if any, are obtained by the government.