The International Aviation Safety
Association Urges Airlines
To Disclose the Specific Wiring used in Aircraft
January 11, 2001 - The announcement yesterday that AMR, parent of American Airlines would spend $1.7 billion to buy Trans World Airlines (TWA) and some assets of UAL's United Airlines, in deals to give it a quarter of the U.S. air travel market received a "cautionary" welcome from the International Aviation Safety Association ("IASA").
IASA USA Vice-Chairman, Edward B Block, a world recognized aircraft wire and cable expert, speaking today urged the airlines to make public the type of aircraft wiring used in their fleets and specifically those wired with "Kapton." "With the scrutiny that aircraft wiring is subject to at the current time" said Block "any prudent airline would take steps to ascertain the type of aircraft wiring aboard their aircraft -- and particularly that of an airline it is buying."
Kapton is a wiring insulation trademarked by DuPont and the name commonly used by experts to describe any aromatic polymide wire. Studies have shown that that a crack exposing a Kapton wire's conductor can lead to a more severe reaction when it short-circuits than other types of wire. The continued use of Kapton insulated wire was banned by the US Navy in 1987 -- and is no longer used in military aircraft in the United States and Australia. In 1999, the entire space shuttle fleet was grounded due to problems experienced with wiring on its spacecraft. The wiring in question - Kapton.
The wiring in aging aircraft has been implicated in
a number of high-profile accidents including the crash of Swissair flight 111
on September 2, 1998 and in the TWA 800 disaster on July 17, 1996. In fact,
the wiring in aging aircraft has been described as an "issue of national concern"
by the Executive Office of the President in a May 10, 2000 memorandum that heralded
the formation of the Wire System Safety Interagency Working Group ("WSSIWG").
"With the airline mergers we are reading about on a daily basis, it is the appropriate
time for the airlines to let the public know what wires surround them when they
board an aircraft," continued Block "in this way the passenger can make an informed
decision whether to board that aircraft or not."
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