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Should changes be made to Canada's Hercules planes?

HerculesPic240.jpgA 6-month-old report made public by CBC News is raising questions over the safety of Canada's Hercules military transport planes.

The investigation by the U.S. Senate armed services committee shows that some of the planes contain counterfeit Chinese parts that could lead to potentially "catastrophic consequences." While the report has been floating around since July 2012, the Harper government only acknowledged the findings this week.

The potential risks are many. Pilots flying these planes could find themselves in a situation where they can't access basic information, according to the investigation. This could mean losing the ability to see the plane's location or receive warning signs.

While the parts come from a Chinese company they actually started out as microchips from Samsung. The report says that they date back to the 1990s and they were recycled and remade along the way. Samsung commented saying, "it is not possible to project the reliability" of these parts.

The federal government, however, says these planes are safe to keep in operation.  Conservative MP Chris Alexander, parliamentary secretary to the minister of national defence says, "If they need to be replaced, if they're unsafe, if they're not functioning, they will be replaced."

The government says that it has a "checks and balances" system in place to protect all military planes, including those with counterfeit parts. As of last fall this program didn't exist, according to internal government emails.

CBC News reports that while the Harper government planned on making replacements to the parts, those plans have since been canned.

The manufacturer of the Hercules plane, Lockheed Martin, has not responded to requests for comment.

Alan Williams, the former head of procurement at National Defence calls for the government to take immediate steps to make changes. "We've been lucky so far. Let's not press our luck."

Martine Simard-Normandin, a leading industry expert, agrees. She spends a lot of time testing and identifying counterfeit parts at MuAnalysis, her test facility in Ottawa. "I would not feel comfortable flying that aircraft...And I certainly wouldn't be comfortable recommending our men and women in uniform do so," she says.

Do you think the government's maintenance plans are enough to make these planes safe for continued use? What should be done about these counterfeit parts? Let us know in the comments below.


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