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FAA and airlines to reduce fuel tank flammability

In a move that would significantly improve aviation safety, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is considering a …

In a move that would significantly improve aviation safety, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is considering a proposal that would require airlines to install new systems to further reduce fuel tank flammability on new and existing large passenger jets.



The FAA has issued more than 60 directives to eliminate fuel tank ignition sources, but we must do more, said FAA Administrator Marion C. Blakey. Our proposal would require a new type of equipment that would close the book on fuel tank explosions.



The FAA is considering a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for later this year that would help prevent fuel tank explosions by requiring that new systems – those that would reduce the flammability of fuel tank vapors on the ground and in flight – be installed on those Boeing and Airbus models whose air conditioning systems could cause heating of center-wing fuel tanks. These new fuel tank systems work by replacing oxygen in the fuel tank with an inert gas, preventing the potential ignition of flammable vapors. The National Transportation Safety Board has long advocated eliminating ignition sources and reducing fuel tank flammability.



The FAA`s approach to both eliminating ignition sources and reducing fuel tank flammability could eliminate up to four accidents over the next 25 years. Center wing fuel tank explosions, including the 1996 TWA 800 accident, have resulted in 346 fatalities.



In May 2002, the FAA unveiled an innovative prototype inerting system that is lightweight and uses no moving parts. Boeing used the FAA`s prototype to develop its own Nitrogen Generating System and plans to install the system on new production airplanes voluntarily beginning in 2005. The FAA also continues to assist Airbus` flight testing program of the company`s onboard inerting system, which also uses the FAA`s prototype.



The FAA is considering requiring flammability reduction systems on new airplane models, such as the Airbus A-380 and Boeing 7E7. The FAA proposal would also prompt a retrofit of 3,800 Airbus and Boeing airplanes over seven years, with Boeing 737, Boeing 747, and Airbus A320 models to be retrofitted first. The preliminary estimate for the total cost for retrofitting the U.S. fleet is approximately $600 to $700 million. The following is the projected U.S. aircraft fleet that would be retrofitted:



Airbus Models – No of Airplanes

Airbus A320 – 729

Airbus A300-600 – 198

Airbus A310 – 48

Airbus A330 – 44



Boeing Models # of Airplanes

Boeing 737 – 1,453

Boeing 747 – 170

Boeing 757 – 654

Boeing 767 – 380

Boeing 777 – 138

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