A whistlelower’s allegation that Connecticut airplane manufacturer Pratt & Whitney committed fraud when it knowingly cut corners on fighter jet engines has enough merit to move forward, a judge said this week.

Pratt & Whitney was awarded a $3.7 billion contract from the U.S. Air Force to manufacture F119 engines for F-22 fighter jets. In 2012, Peter Bonzani Jr. was hired to inspect one aspect of their manufacture.

Bonzani, in a whistleblower complaint, alleged that the company had cut corners on its spray coating process that made the planes a hazard.

In his complaint, Bonzani said pilots could be put at risk.

The engine parts in question are “integrally bladed rotors,” which Bonzani’s complaint explains “must rotate within the engine at high speeds and temperatures while forming an airtight seal that traps the hot gases required to propel the aircraft.”

“Over time, improperly coated seals fail prematurely and without warning,” the complaint says. “A failed seal can cause engine parts to break down, risking catastrophic engine failure."

On Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Janet C. Hall denied Pratt & Whitney’s motion to dismiss the case, and quoted liberally from Bonzani’s complaint in her ruling.

He was fired after he informed management of his findings, Bonzani alleged.

“The defendants’ conduct,” Hall wrote, “supports Bonzani’s allegations of fraud. Within 24 hours after Bonzani had discovered the alleged fraud and notified management of his concerns, defendants summarily suspended Bonzani.”

Bonzani said he was hired in 2012 specifically to oversee the spray-coating process. Three years later, he was asked to explain why those jet engines were failing testing.

He alleged that the company had been manipulating the test results, and that employees were well aware.

“When Bonzani told two Pratt & Whitney employees that the Middletown Plant was cheating on the test samples, the employees ‘acknowledged a company-wide ‘common knowledge’ about the Middletown Plant having a reputation for quality control problems,” Hall wrote, quoting the complaint.

Pratt & Whitney had argued to dismiss the case on several grounds. Defendants argued that any alleged fraud did not take place within the time frame Bonzani worked at the company, and that the spray-coating process did not adversely affect Pratt & Whitney’s contract with the Air Force.

The company is, after all, still producing engines for the Air Force.

Pratt & Whitney’s lawyers argued that, in fact, Bonzani did not prove that any engines violated the contract.

“Defendants next argue that the [complaint] failed to allege with particularity or plausibility that defendants produced or delivered a single nonconforming engine,” Hall wrote.

But Hall agreed with Bonzani. Her ruling allows the case to proceed, and prevents any replies to her ruling from defendants.

Connecticut Media Group