New Items will be added to the top and run off the end into archive
July 24, 2001 -
Swissair Makes Safety Improvements Three Years After Fatal
GENEVA, Switzerland - Swissair is carrying out safety improvements to its fleet of MD-11 aircraft, three years after a plane of the same type crashed off the coast of Canada killing all 229 people on board. The alterations are expected to cost the cash-strapped airline around SFr20 million ($12 million). The programme to rebuild the cockpits of the 19 MD-11s began on July 1 and will run until February 2002. As part of the safety improvements, the cockpit and first class sections are being fitted with smoke detectors, fire extinguishers and infrared cameras. Swissair says the improvements should mean that in the event of a smoke alarm being triggered, pilots will be able to tell straight away whether there is a fire on board. Other changes include a re-organisation of the cabling leading from the fuselage into the cockpit and the modernisation of the planes' secondary flight display (SFD) systems. The SFD system provides the pilot with all the relevant flight information in the event of the main computer crashing. Swissair says the modernisation programme goes further than the recommendations made by the flight safety authorities following the 1998 Halifax crash. Two hundred and 29 people died when the MD-11 came down in the sea after a fire apparently broke out in the cockpit. Canadian investigators say their final report into the accident will not be available until next year.
Boeing Home | News
Copyright © 2001 The Boeing Company - All rights reserved
In the aftermath of the Ansett Grounding came:
http://www.basi.gov.au/rec/r20010092.htm (for full coverage)
Reference the incident in the
two panels below
this one (i.e. it's all about perceptions and presentation)
**** 6/29/01 Preliminary Accident/Incident Data Record 1 ****
From that same Airtran Flt 392 pax:
There is no question there was an actual electrical short/fire and not just an indicator light. I am an electrical engineer and have "burned" many a circuit in my day. The front of the cabin and the cockpit area smelled very strongly of burned electronics. In fact, it was the fact that the newspaper seemed to imply it was potentially a faulty smoke indicator that made me investigate further. I was just exploring the net to find a more accurate report in the paper when I saw the information on the incidents on Aug 8 and Nov. 29th and finally found the 592 site.
There are a couple of other pieces of information that you may also find useful. The stewardess responded with the fire extinguishers but I never actually saw them used. The captain informed the passengers that it was a relay shorting and that switching off the electronics resolved the shorting problem. I did not hear this directly so I cannot 100% confirm it, but another passenger on the plane informed me that the captain said that his seat got so hot it was uncomfortable to be sitting in it. The firemen that responded to the fire went right to the area of the fire to confirm that it was indeed out and that there were no secondary ignitions. We were not allowed back on the plane to get personal articles until they had confirmed there was no fire present.
I hope this information is useful. If you have any questions, feel free to ask.
2nd message >>>>>>>>>> One other piece of information I forgot to share. After the situation was under control, the stewardesses came on the intercom and said that they would be down the aisle with wet towels so that any passenger that was bothered by the smoke could put the wet towel over there mouth. The stewardess that was carrying the towels actually held one over her mouth so the smoke would not bother her.
I just got this one (see below) where, again, the truth seems to have a dollar value attached (as in scaring away paying passengers). Because of the specifics, I'll be after the FAA with a FOIA for more and to see if this one makes their incident databases.
I thought you might find this information useful for your database. I tried to post it on the flight 592 discussion board but I had problems with the server. I was on Airtran flight 392 from Atlanta to Washington, Dulles on 6/27/01. Approximately half way through the flight, the pilot and flight crew successfully resolved a problem with an electrical fire in the cockpit in the area just behind the captain's seat. We descended rapidly and made an emergency landing in Richmond, VA. I would have left it at that, but the next day I read the article in the Atlanta paper which implied the emergency landing was a result of the captain seeing a smoke indicator light and responding that light (I assume this was from Airtran's press release). This started me searching for articles that more accurately reflected what happened and lead me to the fact that this incident is strikingly similar to the Aug. 8 and Nov. 29th Airtran incidents. I hope this information may be of some use to you. As an engineer, I admire the thorough and thoughtful way you have presented your arguments regarding the 592 investigation and the potential ongoing safety issues with Airtran DC-9s.
lambasted for near-collisions on airport runways
TESTIMONY: Number of close calls increasing at nation's airports; lack of accountability criticized
John Hughes; Bloomberg News
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Transportation's chief inspector faulted the Federal Aviation Administration on runway near-collisions, saying the agency has been slow to improve technology and hold employees accountable.
The FAA has recorded 161 near-collisions in the past four years that each involved at least one commercial aircraft, or one such incident every nine days, said DOT inspector general Ken Mead.
"It is apparent that FAA's efforts, along with those of the aviation industry and airports, are not sufficient," Mead said in prepared testimony for a congressional panel. "The number of runway incursions continues to go in the wrong direction."
Incursions, where airplanes at airports come closer to each other, people or objects than federal standards allow, rose 34 percent last year. The FAA, which is part of the Transportation Department, said there were 431, up from 321 in 1999, according to the FAA. Last year's total was the highest in at least 12 years.
"The good news is that approximately 80 percent of runway incursions are minor incidents," said William Davis, the FAA's director of runway safety, in prepared testimony for the hearing by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee's aviation subcommittee.
In those incidents, there was little or no chance of a collision or there was ample time for pilots and controllers to react, the FAA said in a report last week that analyzed the past four years of data.
Mead in his testimony criticized an FAA collision-prevention project, the Airport Movement Area Safety System, for being over budget and six years behind schedule. The FAA also has had six runway safety directors in the past five years, he said.
"An important factor constraining FAA's efforts to reverse the upward trend in runway incursions is the lack of accountability for completion of actions to reduce runway incursions," Mead said.
About a fifth of the incursions, or 259, in the past four years were serious because there was "significant potential" for a collision, or a collision was narrowly avoided, the FAA's report said. More than 60 percent of those incidents involved at least one commercial aircraft, "where the potential loss of life is much greater," Mead said.
A US Airways Group Inc. jetliner taking off at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport came within 200 feet of a private plane that was landing May 14, and a departing American Airlines jetliner carrying 60 people came as close as 10 or 20 feet from a cargo plane May 11 at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, U.S. officials have said.
The FAA increased training, added lights and improved runway markings in an effort to cut down on near-collisions.
The agency last month also gave final approval to the Airport Movement Area Safety System collision-prevention project. The $152 million Northrop Grumman Corp. radar and computer system is scheduled to be activated at 34 of the busiest airports by late 2002.
The system is designed to warn air-traffic controllers of potential collisions, based on a computer analysis of data from radar systems that track aircraft in the air and on the ground.
The FAA has said that though the project has had problems, it has been on time and on budget since it was revised in 1999.
The Associated Press
A federal judge in San Francisco has denied Boeing's bid for a pretrial appeal of a ruling that could set the stage for millions of dollars in punitive damages from Boeing and Alaska Airlines in last year's crash of Alaska Flight 261.
U.S. District Judge Charles Legge said Friday that granting Boeing's request would unfairly delay dozens of wrongful-death lawsuits in the Jan. 31, 2000, crash off California in which 88 people died.
At issue was Legge's May 1 ruling that because Flight 261 was flying over traditional shipping routes when it crashed on a flight from Mexico to San Francisco and Seattle, maritime law applies.
That decision allows survivors of those who died to seek potentially large punitive damages from Boeing for the design of the plane, built by McDonnell Douglas before the companies merged in 1997.
The ruling also would enable relatives to seek compensation for victims' pain and suffering as the MD-80 struggled to stay airborne, taking two steep dives and flying upside down before slamming into the Pacific.
Boeing had sought Legge's permission for an unusual pretrial appeal of the ruling, arguing that the plane wasn't following old maritime routes. Alaska supported the move, with both companies contending resolution now could avert lengthy retrials if Legge is overruled later.
While Boeing could pay millions in punitive damages, Alaska is sheltered from them by international treaty. But the airline could be held liable for pain and suffering before the crash.
Attorneys for the relatives argued earlier this month that granting an appeal now would "do a great disservice to the victims' families" and "frustrate the progress this court's ruling was intended to achieve and thwart the swift, complete and final resolution of this litigation."
They also accused Boeing and Alaska Airlines of going back on their word to seek a quick resolution of more than 80 wrongful-death lawsuits.
Alaska declined comment Friday on Legge's decision, but said it is trying to settle individual cases and has reached agreement with some families.
Susan da Silva, whose husband, Dean Forshee, 47, was killed in the crash, said Legge made the right decision.
"We want to get on with things." she said.
Boeing's attorney, Bruce Campbell, wouldn't say if Boeing would seek a review of Legge's decision by an appellate court.
Legge retires from the bench next week. He said the lawsuits will be transferred to U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer, also in San Francisco.
*** Pilot Doomed EgyptAir Flight
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The 1999 crash of an EgyptAir flight
that killed all 217 people aboard could have been caused only
by someone in the cockpit, not equipment failure, the then
head of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board said on
Monday. "The information that I have very carefully reviewed
when I was chairman left no question in my mind ... that there
is no way that the events could have occurred as a result of a
mechanical failure, but occurred as a result of pilot actions,"
James Hall, who retired in January as head of the panel, said
on the NBC television program 'Today.'
http://airlinebiz.com/wire/06182001 (See Full Story!)
June 24, 2001 - Egyptians Agree Plane Crash Was Suicide -
Newsweek NEW YORK
``Intelligence sources say the intercepts reveal that despite their
stance, the Egyptian investigators privately agreed with their U.S.
counterparts that suicide was the likely cause of the crash,'' Newsweek
All on board were killed when the Boeing 767 crashed into the sea off
Massachusetts. No mechanical cause for the crash has been found.
Earlier this month, the man who headed the U.S. National Transportation
Safety Board (news - web sites) at the time of the crash, James Hall, said
it could only have been caused by someone in the cockpit.
``The information that I have very carefully reviewed when I was chairman
left no question in my mind ... that there is no way that the events could
have occurred as a result of a mechanical failure, but occurred as a result
of pilot actions,'' Hall said.
Investigators have focused on co-pilot Gamil Batouti, who was at the
controls when the aircraft went into a final dive.
Egyptian authorities have long rejected any suggestion that Batouti may have
deliberately crashed the aircraft. They have urged U.S. investigators to
look more closely at the Boeing's elevator panels to determine if they
The final U.S. report on the accident is expected later this year.
Flying Faar Off
Source: Palm Beach Post
Publication date: 2001-06-14
Arrival time: 2001-06-17
If the 10-year plan that the Federal Aviation Administration unveiled last week were in place today, air travel would be smoother and more efficient. But when the plan is in full effect in 2011, the travel misery index will be right where it is today.
The FAA's own numbers show why. With new runways at 15 of the 31 largest airports and changes in flight rules, the agency expects to increase the system's capacity by 30 percent. The FAA also expects the flying public to grow by 30 percent. Ergo, full planes still will be full, crowded airports still will be crowded, and weather delays that tie up the system today will tie up the system tomorrow.
For $11.5 billion, the FAA can maintain current crowding with more passengers. The plan is not entirely new. It's an elaboration of plans the FAA has been developing since 1998. The agency's projected 10-year budgets cover its projected 10-year costs and won't start a fight in Congress, unless the 10-year revenue projections don't pan out.
The FAA plan has 50 separate pieces, some so technical only a pilot can know whether to love or hate them. Flight rules change to shrink horizontal and vertical distances between aircraft. The day the FAA announced its plans, Boeing said it's getting into the traffic control business with a satellite-based data system to make close flying safer, but the airplane manufacturer described its system as a "longer-term solution" than the FAA's.
The FAA can't fully control its own plans. The 15 new runways the plan relies on are in airports' budgets, not the FAA's. They will be built barring cash crunches or not-in-my-back-yard lawsuits. Even so, the FAA expects that 7,700 of the needed 11,000 new daily departures will be from secondary airports or reliever airports near the major airports - in spite of whatever local opposition more flights may generate. Nor can the FAA speak for what local government agencies may, or may not, do to improve access to their airports. The FAA also is relying on airlines to invest in upgraded equipment. Airline profits were off 50 percent last year from a very profitable 1999, the Transportation Department reported this week.
In the past 10 years, airlines capacity increased by 22 percent while passengers increased by 37 percent. That explains the feeling that crowding and delays are getting worse. The FAA didn't say things will get better in the next 10 years, only that they will stop getting worse.
15, 2001 - U.S. Jet Makes Emergency Landing
BRASILIA, Brazil - A Continental Airlines plane carrying 126 passengers and a crew of 15 made an emergency landing Friday in Brasilia due to problems in the aircraft's electrical system. No one was hurt.
The plane left Thursday night from New Jersey's Newark Airport and was headed for Sao Paulo's Cumbica Airport. Other details were not immediately clear.
``The pilot of the Boeing 767 asked the control tower for permission to make an unscheduled landing after he detected a problem in the electrical system,'' Joao Barbosa Neto, of the government's airport management agency said by phone.
12, 2001 - FBI Checking Whether Boeing Wire
SEATTLE, Washington (USA) - The Federal Bureau of Investigation said on Friday it is looking into whether damage to wires on several Boeing Co.
jets was intentional, a finding that would mark one of the most serious cases of sabotage in the U.S. aerospace giant's history.
The investigation would try to determine whether or not a crime had been committed, but the FBI (news - web sites) did expect quick results, a bureau spokesman said.
``We have to look at it and decide if there is federal jurisdiction,'' the spokesman said from FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C.
A notice on Boeing's Web site confirmed that the FBI had taken charge of investigating the incidents, in which Boeing said it had found ``suspicious'' wire damage on up to 10 of its 737 short- to mid-range passenger jets still in production.
``Late Thursday afternoon, The Boeing Company was notified by the Federal Aviation Administration (news - web sites) that the investigation into suspicious wire damage on several 737s has been elevated to a Federal Bureau investigation,'' the message said.
``We will continue to work to ensure the integrity of our manufacturing processes and the quality of our products,'' the message said.
A Boeing spokeswoman said the company had no further comment.
On Thursday, Boeing said that company inspectors at its 737 plant in Renton, Wash., had found seven planes with the wire damage. It said re-inspections of other jets found three more that may have had similar damage, though the evidence in those cases was not conclusive.
None of the planes, which can seat from 110 to 189 people and cost from $40.5 million to $68.5 million, were in service and all of the damage was caught in quality checks during production, Boeing said.
Boeing has so far stopped short of saying the damage was intentional, but local media have quoted company sources as saying the wires appeared to had been cut, perhaps signaling sabotage.
If true, it would be the most extensive case of sabotage at Boeing in recent memory. While not unheard of, intentional damage to aircraft at Boeing is rare, analysts and local media reports said.
NOT THE FIRST TIME The company has declined to speculate on possible motives for sabotage if the damage turns out to be intentional.
There are no prominent labor problems at the Renton plant, which employs
Boeing does plan to shift certain work done there on its 757 model to Wichita, Kan., but has promised to help the 500 workers affected by the move find new jobs in the company.
Boeing is also reportedly looking into consolidating its commercial airline operations by moving the Renton 737 and 757 operations about 30 miles north to Everett, Wash. where it makes the 777, 767 and 747 models.
However, this is not the first time such damage has emerged at the Renton plant or on the 737.
In 1999, Renton inspectors found several wires in a bundle waiting to be installed on a 737 had been snipped on purpose. In 1990, a 737 was found to have more than 50 cut wires, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported.
No one was caught in either case, the newspaper said.
U.S. Orders MD-80, MD-90 Wiring Checks
By Sean Broderick
24-May-2001 11:20 AM U.S. EDT
U.S. regulators, in a pair of emergency directives, ordered MD-80 and
MD-90 operators to check static port heater wiring for damage and
separate nearby metallized Mylar insulation from the area. The immediate-adoptive airworthiness directives (AD), published
Thursday, are based on Boeing alert service bulletins issued March 14
(Nos. MD80-30A092 and MD90-30A023). The bulletins came in response to
the probe of a September 1999 incident in which a Delta MD-88 forward
cargo hold caught fire shortly after the plane left Cincinnati Northern
Kentucky International Airport. The plane turned back and landed safely. Investigators found the fire started when a spark from damaged static
port heater wiring ignited nearby insulation. Aircraft designer
McDonnell-Douglas used the same port heater design on the MD-81, MD-82,
MD-83, MD-87 and MD-90, so Boeing produced bulletins that cover those
models as well as the MD-88-type involved in the incident, and FAA
mandated the work for all six series. FAA wants some 605 U.S.-registered MD-80s
inspected by Sept. 8, or three months after the rules' effective dates.
Major MD-80 and MD-90 operators in the U.S. include Alaska, American,
Continental, Delta, Midwest Express, TWA and US Airways. An FAA
statement says the cost of the rule will be about $120 per aircraft, but
the ADs don't include projected cost figures. Operators must repair damaged wiring before further flight. The Mylar
insulation, which doesn't stand up to flame as well as other types, must
either be replaced with another FAA-approved material or modified so
that the metallized Mylar coating isn't exposed to the heater. FAA last May issued
an AD calling for swaps of another metallized insulation found on
MD-80s and MD-90s. Thursday's rules don't affect those directives, the
U.S. regulators, in a pair of emergency directives, ordered MD-80 and MD-90 operators to check static port heater wiring for damage and separate nearby metallized Mylar insulation from the area.
The immediate-adoptive airworthiness directives (AD), published Thursday, are based on Boeing alert service bulletins issued March 14 (Nos. MD80-30A092 and MD90-30A023). The bulletins came in response to the probe of a September 1999 incident in which a Delta MD-88 forward cargo hold caught fire shortly after the plane left Cincinnati Northern Kentucky International Airport. The plane turned back and landed safely.
Investigators found the fire started when a spark from damaged static port heater wiring ignited nearby insulation. Aircraft designer McDonnell-Douglas used the same port heater design on the MD-81, MD-82, MD-83, MD-87 and MD-90, so Boeing produced bulletins that cover those models as well as the MD-88-type involved in the incident, and FAA mandated the work for all six series.
FAA wants some 605 U.S.-registered MD-80s and MD-90s inspected by Sept. 8, or three months after the rules' effective dates. Major MD-80 and MD-90 operators in the U.S. include Alaska, American, Continental, Delta, Midwest Express, TWA and US Airways. An FAA statement says the cost of the rule will be about $120 per aircraft, but the ADs don't include projected cost figures.
Operators must repair damaged wiring before further flight. The Mylar insulation, which doesn't stand up to flame as well as other types, must either be replaced with another FAA-approved material or modified so that the metallized Mylar coating isn't exposed to the heater.
FAA last May issued an AD calling for swaps of another metallized insulation found on MD-80s and MD-90s. Thursday's rules don't affect those directives, the agency says.
May 27, 2001 - Delta 757 Makes Emergency
Landing At Nashville Airport
NASHVILLE, Tennessee (USA) - A 757 passenger jet made an emergency landing at Nashville International Airport yesterday morning after passengers and pilots smelled smoke in the plane.
After landing without incident, the 183 passengers and seven-member flight crew on Delta flight 1245 slid down the emergency chutes onto the tarmac yesterday about 7:20 a.m. They were on their way from Chicago to Atlanta.
The smell was caused by a malfunction in the window heating element, said Kathleen Bergen, a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration.
Some of the passengers reported feeling nauseated on the Delta plane because of the odor, and three reported minor injuries from their trips down the chutes, which Bergen said is not unusual.
May 23, 9:30 pm Eastern Time
FAA orders heater inspections on some aircraft
WASHINGTON, May 23 (Reuters) - Concerned about a potential fire
hazard, the federal government ordered the operators of DC-9/MD-88
series and MD-90-30 series aircraft on Wednesday to inspect certain
fuselage wiring for possible damage and replace it, if necessary.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an airworthiness directive requiring carriers to inspect static port heater wires for chafing, loose connections and any evidence of electrical arcing, and make any necessary repairs.
The FAA also wants any metallized Mylar-covered insulating blankets located around the heaters to be removed. Those blankets can be replaced with another type of material called Tedlar-covered insulation.
The action follows a recommendation earlier this year from the National Transportation Safety Board, which was concerned about possible electrical and other problems with the heaters.
Those components are mounted against sensing ports inside the fuselage and keep ice from accumulating and interfering with the plane's airspeed and air pressure indicators.
The FAA action was in response to a cargo compartment fire aboard a Delta Air Lines MD-88 in September 1999 that broke out shortly after takeoff from Northern Kentucky International Airport in Covington, Kentucky.
The plane returned to the airport and no injuries were reported.
The safety board determined that a spark from a static port heater ignited the fire, which spread by consuming the metallized Mylar insulation.
The FAA directive will affect 593 U.S.-registered DC-9-81, -82, -83, -87 and MD-88 aircraft, as well as 12 MD-90-30s.
U.S. operators affected, in addition to Delta, are Alaska Airlines (NYSE:ALK - news), American Airlines (NYSE:AMR - news), Continental Airlines (NYSE:CAL - news), Midwest Express Airlines (NYSE:MEH - news), Trans World Airlines (TWA) (OTC BB:TWAIQ.OB - news) and US Airways (NYSE:U - news).
FAA UNEASY ABOUT NON-STC’D SMOKE SAFETY DEVICES
by Stephen Pope
In a bulletin issued by the FAA’s flight standards office in Washington, the agency is taking issue with pilots’ use of non-approved portable smoke safety devices in the cockpit, namely VisionSafe’s $11,000 Emergency Vision Assurance System (EVAS).
In the bulletin, titled “Portable Equipment and Carry-On Devices Intended for Flight Deck Use,” the agency said non-STC’d smoke safety devices pose “an unacceptable hazard to maintaining safe control” of an aircraft, and pointed to EVAS as potentially presenting “significant safety hazards” if not properly evaluated to meet emergency procedures and training requirements.
What this means is that EVAS in FAR Part 135 and 121 aircraft must now be STC’d and crews must be trained in the proper use of the equipment. The problem, as the FAA sees it, is that EVAS has been placed in a number of business aircraft cockpits via FAA Form 337 because STCs do not exist.
As a result of the bulletin, VisionSafe plans to develop STCs and training programs for those models in which EVAS is installed, said a spokesman. He added that all EVAS equipment sold in the future will be STC’d, even in Part 91 aircraft, and that approved training courses through FlightSafety are coming soon.
According to VisionSafe, STCs for EVAS are currently available in the Hawker 800, 800XP and 1000; Boeing 737; Cessna Citation V Ultra, VII and X; and Dassault Falcon 900, 900EX and 2000. STCs for EVAS in the Hawker 600 and 700; Falcon 50 and 50EX; and GulfStream III, IV and V have been submitted but are not yet approved. VisionSafe also anticipates submitting STCs for all King Air and Bombardier models, as well as the GII, this month.
From Air Safety Week: More
MD-11 operators can expect more actions to correct wiring problems on the aircraft, according to documents recently obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The documents lay out the 5-phase action plan formulated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the wake of the fatal crash of a Swissair MD-11 at Halifax, Canada. Phase 5C, the last step, is to be launched this coming May, according to the overall plan; it features nine service bulletins (SBs).
These documents may well become mandatory airworthiness directives (ADs).
According to the plan, "The subject wiring in these bulletins are outside of the pressure vessel and/or located in areas with minimal ignitable materials/fuels."
The plan reveals that the FAA determined just three months after the September 1998 Swissair crash that major work was necessary to assure the safety of MD-11 electrical systems and their installation. When Phase 5C is implemented, it will bring the total number of discrete corrective actions to more then 80, a somewhat lower count than first estimated by this publication, which included superseded ADs (see ASW, Feb. 8, 1999, March 6, 2000, April 24, 2000, May 29, 2000).
Basically, the airplane's electrical innards are undergoing wholesale inspection, repair and modification, although in separate phases that break the work into distinct packages. The total magnitude of the work, it seems to us, raises intriguing questions about the rigor of the airplane's original certification, especially since the corrective action plan was produced by the FAA's Los Angeles Aircraft Certification Office (LAACO), which approved the MD-11 for service.
These documents directly contradict the wording in FAA ADs on the MD-11, which have pointedly declared the actions in no way relate to the Swissair crash. That's true in a limited sense, in that the ultimate cause of the crash has not been pronounced officially yet by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, which remains deep into its ongoing investigation.
Even so, these documents show a direct link between the crash and the resulting barrage of ADs. If the plane hadn't crashed, the special scrutiny leading to this "plan of action to inspect and modify the fleet of 179 MD-11 aircraft to address wiring safety issues," according to its telling wording, never would have occurred.
Perhaps they can see the Australian Stir over Ansett as heralding a new era - and they are getting in first with a reshuffle at the top.
|April 5, 2001 - 737
Fuel Tank Is Focus Of Inquiry
Thai Jet Destroyed By Center Tank, Not Bomb, NTSB Suggests
SEATTLE, Washington (USA) - A preliminary investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board indicates the center wing tank of a Boeing 737-400 exploded while the jet was at the Bangkok airport last month.
That the blast was not the result of sabotage, as first believed, would raise new and troubling questions about fuel tank safety on commercial airliners if the safety board's initial analysis proves correct.
The blast killed one flight attendant and was thought to have been an attempt to assassinate the country's prime minister, who was about to board the jet.
After a fuel tank explosion brought down TWA Flight 800 in 1996, killing all 230 people on the 747 jumbo jet, the safety board strongly recommended that inert nitrogen gas be pumped into jetliner fuel tanks to lessen the danger of an explosion.
That recommendation is still under study by the Federal Aviation Administration and an industry group.
Although a fuel tank explosion is extremely rare, the NTSB has criticized the design of Boeing jets because air conditioning units are located directly under the center tanks, which can result in fuel vapors in the tanks being heated to explosive levels while the plane is on the ground.
That's what happened in the case of TWA Flight 800, a crash that the FBI initially thought was caused by a bomb.
It is not clear if the air conditioning units were running while the Thai Airways 737 was parked at the gate and waiting for passengers to board.
But not only did investigators find no evidence of a bomb on the Thai Airways 737, they told Thai authorities the fuel tank explosion bears striking similarities to one that destroyed a Philippine Airlines 737-300 at the Manila airport in 1990.
Laboratory analysis of the cockpit voice recorder from the Thai jet showed that the "noise signature" produced by the blast is very similar to the one produced by the center fuel tank explosion on the Philippine Airlines plane, according to people familiar with the investigation.
The safety board's Robert Swaim, who is heading the investigation, recently briefed Thai authorities on the latest developments surrounding the March 3 blast.
Passengers had not yet boarded the Thai Airways Boeing 737-400 when the explosion occurred. Among the 149 passengers due to board was Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
The blast and subsequent fire, which gutted the jetliner within minutes, killed one flight attendant and injured seven others. Within hours of the blast, the prime minister said an explosive device had been used. He subsequently said authorities had found traces of a plastic explosive in the wreckage.
But Swaim has told Thai officials that the FBI could find no evidence of a bomb or any traces of an explosive residue on any items that have been examined.
Boeing is assisting in the investigation, but a spokeswoman said yesterday the company would have no comment on the ongoing inquiry.
In 1998, the FAA ordered the inspection of older 737s after exposed electrical wiring was found in the wing fuel tanks of several jets.
The Thai Airways 737 was delivered in 1991 and had logged 16,592 hours in flight.
Until now, the only other known explosion of a 737 center fuel tank was on the Philippine Airlines jet. The plane was being pushed back from the gate when the explosion occurred, killing eight people.
The NTSB has cited that blast, as well as others on different kinds of jetliners, to urge improvements in fuel tank safety.
Last year, the board ruled that the crash of TWA Flight 800 was caused when an unknown electrical spark ignited flammable fuel vapors in the center wing tank of the 747, vapors that had been heated to explosive levels by air conditioning units under the tank.
The board urged the FAA give "significant consideration" to a nitrogen-inerting system for fuel tanks in existing and newly certified jetliners.
The FAA has said that computer modeling shows that a flammable fuel and air mixture exists in the center wing tank of commercial jetliners on average of about 30 percent of the time.
That could be reduced to about 2 percent with nitrogen inerting, according to the FAA.
The FAA and industry groups that included Boeing and Airbus had previously rejected the idea of inerting systems for commercial jetliners as too costly and impractical.
But last year, the FAA said it was considering a ground-based system that would pump inert nitrogen gas into the fuel tanks of jetliners before they take off. A study by the FAA's technical center found that a ground inerting system is feasible because of rapid advances in technology and would cost significantly less than onboard systems.
The cost of the ground-based system, however, would still be high -- as much as $1.6 billion over 13 years -- and would take three years to implement.
The cost would be about $800 million if the system were limited to protecting the center fuel tanks of jetliners.
An FAA spokesman said yesterday the agency is awaiting a final report by an aviation rule-making advisory committee before deciding how to proceed. That report is expected by July, the spokesman said.
Although fuel tank explosions are very rare, aviation authorities have known the potential danger for many years.
When the safety board issued its final report last year on the cause of the TWA explosion, then-board Chairman James Hall recalled that as far back as 1963 the Civil Aeronautics Board, the NTSB's predecessor agency, had urged the FAA that "every effort be expended to arrive at a practical means by which flammable air/vapor mixtures are eliminated from fuel tanks."
Said Hall: "Almost 40 years later, it is imperative that at long last, the aviation community move with dispatch to remove flammable fuel/air mixtures from the fuel tanks of transport category aircraft."
2001 - 737 Fuel Tank Is Focus Of Inquiry
Thai Jet Destroyed By Center Tank, Not Bomb, NTSB Suggests
SEATTLE, Washington (USA) - A preliminary investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board indicates the center wing tank of a Boeing 737-400 exploded while the jet was at the Bangkok airport last month.
************ Dear ACRN:
In regard to the wiring problem with the 737s, I briefed the FAA, FBI, GAO, DOTIG, the NAVY, and Congressman James Greenwood on April 10, 1997 in Washington, DC about the Manilla explosion in May 1990 caused by wiring. An NTSB Recommendation was never responded to for 7 years prior to the meeting, and the FAA's Tom McSweeny refuted my briefing by saying only that a mechanic had had a screwdriver in his pocket, and that was the reason for the wire damage. I countered by saying he must have crawled all over the aircraft because there was damage found in the wiring all over the aircraft. In Dec 97, at the NTSB Hearing on TWA 800, the FAA admitted they had ignored the NTSB recommendation for all those years, but would get right on it. They didn't do anything again. It was only after leaking fuel from a 737 in Houston, Tx from arcing wires, that on Mother's Day 1998, the FAA issued their emergency AD to inspect only the fuel tank wiring. They found damage on more than 50% of the a/c inspected. In October 2000, the FAA issued a NPRM to inspect the FQIS wires on 737-400s.
Edward B. Block
International Aviation Safety Association