Beginning in the mid 1980s, The Boeing Company contracted with the United States Army to completely overhaul its fleet of CH 47d Chinook helicopters. During this re manufacturing process, Boeing knowingly installed defective flight critical transmission gears in hundreds of the Chinooks. Boeing delivered those defective aircraft to the Army and falsely certified them as airworthy. They were not. The defective gears exploded in flight on at least three occasions, each with catastrophic results. The accompanying photo is an actual shot of a doomed Chinook lost due to a cracked transmission gear while moving U.S. Army troops and artillery during the preparation of Operation Desert Storm in 1991. Many other gears installed by Boeing were eventually found to have the same defects that caused the three crashes.
For his heroic efforts, Relator Roby received a $10,000,000 share of the recovery.
Relator Brett Roby, a quality engineer for one of Boeing’s two gear manufacturer subcontractors, blew the whistle in 1993 after learning of the defective gears and of Boeing’s decision to continue installing them in the helicopters. He filed two False Claims Act lawsuits (one in 1995 and one 1997), each naming Boeing and one of its subcontractors as defendants, and the United States intervened in both. Roby and the Government sought damages not only for the replacement of hundreds of defective gears, but also for amounts needed to repair or replace the three doomed helicopters. These two cases thus represented the unusual situation where the United States viewed an aircraft manufacturer’s conduct as sufficiently egregious to warrant a suit for damages to recover the value of aircraft lost due to defective parts. After pursuing a scorched earth defense involving dozens of lawyers in different firms throughout the country, Boeing finally settled the case for $65,000,000. As a result of Mr. Roby’s efforts, the fleet was grounded and all of the defective transmission gears were replaced. For his heroic efforts, Relator Roby received a $10,000,000 share of the recovery. Several ground breaking legal decisions were handed down by both the trial court and the court of appeals concerning Mr. Roby’s case.