Imagine my surprise when I read a report this morning about a gentleman in New York who has been accused of forging signatures on inspection paperwork for aerospace parts, destination Space X. This person, if guilty, has jeopardized lives, reputations, and huge sums of money. Not to mention he could have single-handedly set back the revitalization of our space program with a serious, highly publicized mishap.
Dumb. Criminal, too.
My military career took a convoluted, non-obvious, twisting path. Nineteen years before I led an Afghan infantry company up a hill in the Army, I was a wet-behind the ears aircraft mechanic in the Air Force. The training was extensive, technical, and rigorous. It seemed that Uncle Sam wanted me to work on F-15s, before I was allowed to so much as breathe upon one we had a class about paperwork and the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
It was made crystal clear to my class on Day One that if we set our signature upon an aircraft maintenance document, it was a binding legal document as soon as it was signed. The maintenance logs were meticulously maintained, scrutinized. They could be used as an instrument in a court-martial if an airplane went down as the result of shoddy maintenance, your signature could send you to jail.
Nothing spreads fear among maintainers like an aircraft crashing. As soon as the base hears that an aircraft has gone down, the maintenance logs are seized and placed under guard. The last maintainers that touched the aircraft are summoned for questioning, every aspect of their work would be examined by some pretty hard-nosed types. The investigation could go on for months, and in that whole time everyone who placed their signature upon the logs lives in fear about the investigation board’s findings.
Because that signature in the logs is binding. A legal document. An affirmation that the work you performed was in strict accordance with the Technical Orders for your aircraft. Those signatures have cost more than a few their careers, their paychecks, and their freedom.
A stupid eighteen year old E-1 on Day One of technical training knows this deep in their bones, and the lesson is pounded home throughout their service.
So where does this engineer, if he did what he is alleged to have done, get off forging signatures and falsifying work?
There is no excuse for this. None.
The legal nature of the signature in the logs is no different in the civilian world. The only difference is that the signee is liable for civil and criminal action, as opposed to the UCMJ like a military mechanic. Either way, the signee is in for some serious trouble.
The logs are the logs.
If your work was substandard or “pencil whipped,” you sign at your peril.
I can’t think of an application more demanding and unforgiving of error than spaceflight. This is truly a zero-tolerance application with the highest demands. I’ll bet the investigators that uncovered this alleged malfeasance are ex-military types with long aerospace experience.
Heaven help the character who set his signature down.