The Justice Department is investigating allegations that Air Force One, the president's jet, and almost 7,000 other government and military planes may be equipped with faulty engines that could fail in mid-flight.
The allegation that the General Electric Co. engines are unusually prone to flame-out or stall-out in flight is in a lawsuit brought against the company by Ian Johnson, a Briton employed as an electrical engineer at GE's aircraft engine division in Evendale, Ohio.However, Justice and other federal officials emphasized that their investigations should not be taken as proof of a defect.
To date, according to federal and GE officials, there have been no known incidences of aircraft failure due to the alleged defect, federal officials said.
The Air Force, which operates Air Force One, is taking all necessary steps to ensure the safety of President Clinton and his staff aboard the jet, said White House spokeswoman Ginny Terzano.
"The Air Force is fully confident that Air Force One is completely safe to fly," she said.
Johnson's petition, filed in December in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati and unsealed Thursday, contends that GE was aware of test results showing that the engines were susceptible to electromagnetic interference and, thus, could malfunction in a way that could lead to engine fires or sudden losses of power.
The Federal Aviation Administration, Defense Department and the FBI are examining Johnson's charges, the White House confirmed Friday.
GE called the charges "frivolous and outrageous," and said they have no basis in fact.