Facing a backlash within the aerospace supply chain and a lack of qualified auditors, the International Aerospace Quality Group (IAQG) has nevertheless doubled-down and rejected a call to delay the deadline for transitioning to the new AS9100 revision D standard for two years. Currently, all AS9100 rev. C certificates will lapse in September 2018; Oxebridge published a “Public Call” white paper asking the IAQG for a two year postponement, to September 2020. Oxebridge argued this would allow more time for companies to adopt the Rev. D standard, while giving more time for the IAQG to roll out auditor training. The Public Call document can be read here.

While the IAQG leadership refused to respond directly to Oxebridge, sources within the IAQG and its US counterpart organization, the American Aerospace Quality Group (AAQG) reported that the issue was discussed within IAQG leadership. According to sources present at the event, it was then openly debated at a recent American Aerospace Quality Group (AAQG) meeting, prompting one member to remark “we’re not delaying, no matter who asks for it,” referring to Oxebridge.

This comes at the same time that the IAQG is reporting a dramatic lack of qualified auditors to handle the backlog of companies currently seeking updating prior to the 2018 deadline. Recently, the IAQG sent an email to its audit pool indicating that only 55.8% of the aerospace auditors who applied for AS9100 upgrade training passed the exam, as of March 24, 2017. The numbers are worse for AS9110 and AS9120 auditors, with each of those categories reporting only 33% of auditors having passed the exam.

The remarkable failure rate raises a series of questions. Auditors report to Oxebridge that the IAQG testing materials, developed and administered solely by the training organization Plexus, are confusing and subjective. An Oxebridge review of some of the questions on the exams seems to bear this out, as questions are phrased which would require a subjective response, and yet the grading seems to expect an objective answer.

The issue has many auditors claiming that Plexus is intentionally “failing” auditors in order to force them to pay additional fees for re-testing. One AS9100 auditor called it “a racket.”

If the problem is not with Plexus’ materials, then the fault may lie with the adequacy of the auditor pool to begin with. The changes to AS9100 revision D are not significant beyond the changes already initiated as part of ISO 9001:2015, and with some additional requirements for counterfeit part control. It’s not clear, therefore, why AS9100 auditors would be confused on the material to the point that nearly half cannot pass the exam, unless the auditors did not understand ISO 9001:2015 either.

The auditing scheme for ISO 9001:2015 does not have mandatory exams like the AS scheme does, thus raising concerns over the quality of ISO 9001 auditors.

All of this dramatically impacts on AS9100 end user organizations, who rely on certifications to obtain or maintain critical contracts with aerospace prime manufacturers, defense agencies, or governments. The refusal to provide a “breathing space” delay of two years ensures that many AS9100 certified organizations will lose their certificates purely due to administrative and bureaucratic logjams created by the IAQG itself, rather than because their quality systems are deficient. This, Oxebridge argues, will result in an ironic end result: that the very aerospace primes whose representatives sit on the IAQG leadership board will eventually have to pull AS9100 certification from their supplier requirements, rather than lose key suppliers.

Oxebridge argues that the IAQG was in a unique position to “fix” many of the problems reported with ISO 9001:2015, just as it had done with the release of AS9100 Revision C in 2009, which corrected problems from the ISO 9001:2000/2008 standard. For example, AS9100 already had a well-liked clause on “risk management” that could have replaced the confusing and reviled ISO 9001:2015 clause on “risk based thinking,” but the IAQG instead opted to include both clauses, creating conflicts and confusion. Similarly, the IAQG could have rejected the text of ISO 9001 entirely, but opted to continue to include it, despite moving in the direction of decoupling from ISO in the future.

Serious concerns are now being raised over the validity and effectiveness of the quality systems that will emerge under AS9100 revision D. Companies will have rushed their upgrades to comply with an arbitrary deadline, having only two years to implement the more complicated requirements of AS9100, as opposed ot the three years given to users of “vanilla” ISO 9001. In addition, registrars have had to rush the upgrading of their internal procedures, and many are still not accredited to issue AS9100 certificates, despite the deadline looming. Finally, the IAQG’s own data shows that not only is there a lack of auditors, nearly half of those auditors are unqualified and cannot pass the mandatory exams.

The gap is already being filled by unaccredited, or self-accredited, “certificate mills” which offer counterfeit or fraudulent AS9100 certificates either without any audits, or against ISO and IAQG auditing rules. The certificate mill G-PMC Registrars, operated by Daryl Guberman and Donald LaBelle, recently ran a press release announcing that G-PMC was approving Lockheed Martin suppliers for AS9100. Lockheed Martin has been contacted for a reaction which was not available at press time, but the agreement is unlikely, since IAQG rules prohibit the issuance of AS9100 certificates by firms not officially accredited under the IAQG scheme. The matter is now being investigated to see if Guberman and LaBelle may have broken any laws by issuing these certificates, including infringement of the AS9100 trademark and fraud. American Global Standards, operated by Steven Keneally, also offers non-recognized AS9100 certification services, allegedly accredited by “AIAO-BAR,” a company that Keneally also manages.

“It’s an unforced error,” Oxebridge VP Christopher Paris said. “It makes no sense why IAQG would force this issue and double-down on it, since they stand to lose as much as anyone else. They can expect decreased sales of AS9100D, decreased purchase of certification services, and decreased interest in participation by auditors, resulting in decreased training sales. Everyone loses. It’s baffling.”

The IAQG has consistently refused to comment on the issue, despite the leadership being in regular contact with Oxebridge on other matters.