The shades of Swissair 111 are approaching on the horizon.  Read what was in
the Seattle P-I this morning.  Especially with third parties being involved
with the installation of ADDITIONAL WIRING to accommodate passenger
requirements.  Does this appear to be another "flirting with potential
fate" with respect to airplane wiring?


United, American scrutinize planes' laptop ports
Monday, July 3, 2000
DALLAS -- Even as they equip more jetliners with power outlets for laptop
computers, the nation's two largest airlines are confronting safety concerns
over the ports.  United Airlines disconnected the ports on some jets until
they can be rewired, while American is inspecting its entire fleet after an in
-flight incident. In May, wiring from an outlet on an American Airbus A300 leaving London for Boston overheated, causing a burning smell in the cabin, an airline spokesman said.  The captain aborted the flight and landed in Shannon, Ireland.
"You're not going to start out over the Atlantic when you smell something and
you don't know where it's coming from," said American spokesman John Hotard.

Mechanics discovered that wiring had rubbed against a metal seat part,
causing a small hole in the wiring, which led the insulation to overheat,
Hotard said.  After the incident, which was first reported in The Wall Street
Journal, the airline began an inspection of wiring on its entire 700-plane
fleet, which will be finished in July, Hotard said.

United's decision to disconnect power outlets in 24 of its Boeing 777s was
actually unrelated.  The outlets were installed by a third-party vendor --
which United declined to identify -- who placed the outlet wires closer to
backup power wiring than the one-quarter-inch separation recommended by
Boeing, a United spokesman said.

Rather than ground the planes, United decided to disconnect the power.
Repairs will be made from November through January, said Joe Hopkins, a
United spokesman. He said none of the planes experienced any problems similar
to the aborted American flight. 

David Stempler, president of the Washington-based Air Travellers Association,
said his group received complaints from some United passengers who didn't get
a full explanation why the power ports weren't operating.  "We thought it was
an isolated event," Stempler said. "When it happened the second time, it
didn't seem so isolated."  Despite the setbacks, both United and American and
several other carriers are going ahead with plans to increase the number of
outlet-equipped planes in their fleets.  Most laptop batteries run out of
power after about 2 hours and business travellers prize the outlets.

2000 The Associated Press

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