Wed, Feb 18, 2004
Better Late Than Never
Safety Board Chairman Ellen Engleman-Conners released Tuesday the
following statement Tuesday afternoon in reaction to the FAA's
issuance of a final rule requiring fuel tank flame reduction
systems in transport category aircraft, beginning with Boeing 747
"I am pleased that we are nearing the end of a long road in
greatly reducing the danger of fuel tank explosions on airliners.
The Safety Board identified the problem in the early months of its
investigation into the crash of TWA flight 800 in 1996 (see Safety
Today's FAA rule sets the basis for the certification of fuel
tank flame reduction systems. I recognize that the FAA's
accomplishment comes despite the early industry and working group
predictions that fuel tank inerting would be weight and cost
prohibitive. I commend the FAA for taking a two-pronged approach to
the problem by recognizing that ignition source prevention alone
cannot protect transport airplanes from this potential danger, that
the issue of fuel flammability had to be confronted. This rule will
incorporate new technology that will prevent the accumulation of
explosive fuel/air vapors in aircraft fuel tanks.
In the last 14 years alone, 346 persons have lost their lives
due to explosions of flammable fuel/air mixtures in airliner fuel
tanks. The FAA has proposed the special conditions that will be
required to prevent these losses from continuing in this first of
numerous airplane models.
I'd like to acknowledge two Safety Board investigators -- Dr.
Joseph Kolly and Mr. Robert Swaim -- who have been instrumental in
this investigation and have led the Board's aggressive pursuit of
inerting systems in transport category aircraft.
The Safety Board will analyze the FAA's action to determine the
extent that it satisfies one of our Most Wanted safety
recommendations, and looks forward to this technology being
incorporated into all commercial air carrier aircraft."
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