updated 5/27/2005 6:10:01 PM ET 2005-05-27T22:10:01

Three senior Boeing Co. employees have filed a lawsuit against the aircraft manufacturer claiming the company ignored numerous defective parts used to build airplanes.

The three employees of Boeing's commercial aircraft division in Wichita brought the lawsuit in March on behalf of the U.S. government, alleging that Boeing was aware of nearly 2,000 defective parts from Ducommun Inc. of California used in 32 of the company's airplanes.

The lawsuit became public Thursday after the U.S. Justice Department completed its investigation.

A federal court filing said the parts ended up on $1.5 billion worth of planes delivered to the U.S. Air Force and Navy and foreign military forces, including ones in Japan, Italy, Turkey and Australia.

The lawsuit contends the parts did not pass minimum Federal Aviation Administration safety requirements and were used on 737s, 747s, 757s and 767s made in Wichita and delivered for sale from March 1998 through November 2004.

James Ailes of Wichita; Jeannine "Gigi" Prewitt of Derby; and Taylor Smith, now of Savannah, Ga., filed the lawsuit. Their attorney said they would not comment beyond the lawsuit.

Craig Martin, a spokesman for Boeing in Seattle, said corporate officials did not learn about the lawsuit until recently and could not comment on specifics.

"Boeing has a superb record of safety and a very high reputation with our customers," Martin said.

Ducommun executives were unavailable to comment, according to officials with the Carson, Calif., manufacturer of parts for numerous aircraft.

The lawsuit said that in 1999 Boeing found Ducommun's documents for making the parts did not conform to FAA requirements.

A Boeing field representative wrote a report to suspend Ducommun's delivery of parts to the Wichita plant, the lawsuit says, but the computer report was deleted the next day.

"Ducommun continued to deliver bogus, defective and nonconforming parts to Boeing Wichita," according to the lawsuit.

Ailes, Smith and Prewitt claim in the lawsuit that Ducommun kept two sets of books for manufacturing parts — "fake books," for Boeing and the FAA and "real books" for Ducommun.

The three investigators say they "became the subjects of harassment, threats and intimidation" when they filed reports in 2000 criticizing Boeing's use of defective parts.

The lawsuit seeks at least $10,000 for each false claim made by Boeing to the U.S. government concerning the quality and safety of the aircraft.

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