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NTSB warns of possible fire hazard on 767s

767 Graphic

Board recommends review of all aircraft wiring

January 27, 1998
Web posted at: 5:36 p.m. EST (2236 GMT)

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Boeing 767s could be at risk of in-flight fires or loss of control because of inadequate separation between aircraft wiring and adjacent components, the National Transportation Safety Board reported to the Federal Aviation Administration in a letter on January 15.

NTSB called on the FAA to review all aircraft wiring designs in light of recent incidents on three different aircraft.

The board cited two incidents on 767s that occurred within days of each other in 1996. In both cases, electricity jumped from the plane's wiring to cables controlling the flight control surfaces on the wings.

On one flight -- a Delta Air Lines 767 departing from Kennedy Airport in New York -- the pilots had to regain control of the plane and make an emergency landing back in New York.

In addition to the two 767 incidents, the transportation safety board cited an incident that caused an in-flight fire on a Cessna 650.

FAA recommendations for a certain amount of clearance between wiring and nearby components are not always being followed, the NTSB claims.

The board is asking the FAA to review the design, manufacture and inspection procedures of all aircraft to ensure that there is enough distance between wiring and other components to prevent the fire hazard.

Boeing said it had responded swiftly to the three incidents cited by the NTSB.

"It is important to note that as soon as the incidents occurred, we issued service bulletins," said company spokeswoman Debbie Nomaguchi.

She said FAA-conducted inspections of the clearance between the wiring and cables "showed no damage. It was an isolated problem and we fixed it."

The FAA's Tom Sweeney said his agency had made no decision yet on the NTSB's request for a review. "It's a little premature to give a definitive response to a recommendation we've had for just two weeks," he said.


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The shadows 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