Associated Retired Aviation Professionals

 Wednesday October 11

Study Shows Need for Wiring Upgrade 

By RANDOLPH E. SCHMID, Associated Press Writer 

WASHINGTON (AP) - Inspections of wiring on 81 airliners found ``room for improvement'' but no immediate safety problems, the Federal Aviation Administration (news - web sites) reported Wednesday.

While cracked insulation was found on wires in six recently retired planes, the cracks did not necessarily represent a hazard, said Elizabeth Erickson, director of aircraft certification for the Federal Aviation Administration.

``Cracked wires do not, in and of themselves, represent an immediate safety problem,'' Erickson said in a discussion of the agency's program to study aircraft wiring. But, she added, ``they are of concern to us.''

The FAA launched a program two years ago to study wiring in aircraft, particularly aging airliners. The advisory committee for that effort is meeting in Washington this week to review progress.

The National Transportation Safety Board has concluded that the destruction of TWA flight 800 four years ago, killing all 230 aboard, resulted from a fuel tank explosion, probably caused by a short circuit.

The FAA program studied airliners during their regular maintenance stops, looking specifically for wiring problems

``They found no immediate fleetwide safety issues, but they found definite room for improvement in maintenance practices,'' Erickson said.

Not all the problems were caused by aging, she added, noting, for example, that in some cases wiring insulation had been unintentionally damaged by work crews in tight areas.

``We found a need for better targeted inspection out there in the fleet,'' she said.

Erickson said Boeing and Airbus have advised airlines of problem areas so they can improve wiring inspections and noted maintenance reports are being changed to more completely show repairs made on wiring. The FAA is also improving its training of inspectors to better focus on wiring problems.

Erickson said the agency is also working on the development of new, more sensitive circuit breakers to shut off power when a short occurs in a wire and on technology to check the condition of wires throughout a plane.

Asked about reports that the cracked wiring found on the six retired airliners could mean some planes have hundreds of damaged wires, she insisted that assumption was incorrect.

Those inspections targeted areas where wiring was under the most stress, areas where it was exposed to heat or cramped into a tight areas, she said.

Those findings ``can't be extrapolated to the whole of the aircraft,'' she said.

The detailed wiring checks done on the six retired planes included removal of wiring bundles from various parts of the planes, a step that can't be done on aircraft that are still in service, she noted.

The six planes included an Airbus A300, two DC-9s, a Boeing 747, a DC-10 and a Lockheed L-1011.

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