European Regulators Protest Inerting Systems
One day after Airbus celebrated the joint EASA and FAA
certification of the A380 superjumbo, investigators with the
National Transportation Safety Board and safety advocates say
they're concerned the mammoth airliner will be exempt from new US
rules designed to prevent fuel tank explosions.
European officials say they don't plan to hold the plane to a
requirement proposed by the FAA, as they don't agree with
regulation. That proposal, set to go into effect next year, calls
for empty fuel tanks to be filled with nitrogen, to render any
residual fumes inert and prevent explosions triggered by electrical
wiring inside center-wing-mounted tanks.
Safety advocates say it's a mistake to exempt the A380 from the
rules, as not complying may put the megaliner at increased risk for
explosions. In 2004, the NTSB even took the unusual step of writing
a letter to European regulators, urging them to consider fuel tank
"It's unfortunate that an aircraft of this size and significance
does not have a requirement to eliminate the flammability in the
tanks," former NTSB board member Carol Carmody told USA Today.
Airbus replies the A380 isn't prone to the same kind of
explosion that brought down TWA Flight 800 in 1996, as the A380
does not have a fuselage-mounted fuel tank like the Boeing 747. The
European planemaker also notes it has never had an issue with fuel
tanks on any of its aircraft.
"This airplane has undergone more testing and more stringent
evaluation than any other commercial airplane in history, and today
is a very proud day that it has been certified as ready to fly,"
Airbus spokesman Clay McConnell said of the A380.
The FAA says Airbus jets remain vulnerable... but unless the
planes are registered in the US, there's nothing the agency can do
"There is no explanation other than it's a stiff arm in the face
of safety," said former NTSB chairman Jim Hall on the regulators'