Associated Retired Aviation Professionals

FAA Office of Public Affairs
May 7, 2001 
Contact: Alison Duquette 
Phone: 202-267-3462 

FAA Issues Fuel Tank Safety Rule 

WASHINGTON- The U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal 
Aviation Administration (FAA) today issued a rule that requires 
airplane manufacturers and operators to change how airplane fuel 
tanks are designed, maintained and operated. 

The FAA rule, the most comprehensive fuel tank safety initiative 
ever put forward, includes a Special Federal Aviation Regulation 
(SFAR) to minimize the potential for failures that could cause 
ignition sources in fuel tanks on new and existing airplanes. It also 
includes a regulation that, for the first time, mandates airplane 
design changes to minimize the flammability of fuel tanks on new 

"Although aviation remains an incredibly safe way to travel, our 
extensive research and evaluation of past design philosophies and 
certification practices show that it's time for a new approach to 
fuel tank safety," said FAA Administrator Jane F. Garvey. "The 
FAA's rule is an aggressive plan that will certainly raise the bar in 
aviation safety."

Since the tragic Trans World Airlines (TWA) 800 accident in July 
1996, the FAA has focused on the three fundamental areas that 
keep airplane fuel tanks safe: the prevention of ignition sources, 
fuel flammability, and fuel tank inerting. Based on recent FAA and 
industry research and tests, the Aviation Rulemaking Advisory 
Committee (ARAC) continues to evaluate fuel tank inerting and is 
expected to make recommendations to the agency in July.

The SFAR portion of the rule affects 6,971 transport airplanes with 
30 or more seats manufactured by Airbus, Aerospatiale (ATR), 
Boeing, British Aerospace, Bombardier, De Havilland, Dornier, 
Embraer, Fokker, Lockheed, Saab and Shorts. The SFAR amends 
current FAA rules for both existing and new model airplanes.  

For existing airplanes:
·Manufacturers must conduct a one-time design review of the fuel 
tank system for each transport airplane model in the current fleet 
to ensure that failures could not create ignition sources within the 
fuel tank.

·Manufacturers must then design specific programs for the 
maintenance and inspection of the tanks to ensure the continued 
safety of fuel tank systems.

Operational changes for existing airplanes:
·Based on the information provided by the manufacturer under the 
SFAR, operators must then develop and implement a 
FAA-approved fuel tank maintenance and inspection program for 
their airplanes.   

For new airplane types:
·Manufacturers must further minimize the existence of ignition 
sources in fuel tanks. Future transport category airplanes will be 
designed to better address potential failures in the fuel tank 
system that could result in an ignition source.

·Manufacturers must develop maintenance and inspection 
programs to ensure fuel tank safety.

·Some airplane types are designed with heat sources adjacent to 
the fuel tank, which can heat the fuel and increase the formation 
of flammable vapors in the tank. The rule requires manufacturers 
to reduce the time fuel tanks operate with flammable vapors in the 
tank by designing fuel tank systems with a means to minimize the 
development of flammable vapors in the fuel tank or a means to 
prevent catastrophic damage in the unlikely event ignition occurs.

Manufacturers have 18 months from June 6, the effective date of 
the rule, to conduct the safety reviews and develop maintenance 
and inspection programs required by the SFAR. Operators have 
36 months from June 6 to incorporate an FAA-approved 
maintenance and inspection program into their operating 
procedures. Together, these initiatives are estimated to cost the 
industry $165 million over 10 years. Specifically, the fuel tank 
review will cost $38 million; changes to maintenance and 
inspection programs will cost $92 million; lost net revenue will cost 
$24 million; and additional recordkeeping requirements will cost $10 

The FAA has issued or proposed nearly 40 airworthiness directives 
(ADs) on fuel tank safety. These actions were taken from lessons 
learned in the TWA 800 accident investigation or through targeted 
FAA inspections and service history reviews. The agency may 
issue additional ADs based on the new data gathered from the 
design review of existing aircraft mandated by the SFAR. 

The SFAR is available on the FAA's web site at Three fact sheets, dated July 
2000, that address fuel tank inerting, flammability, research, and 
ADs are also available on the FAA's web site at   


An electronic version of this news release is available via the
World Wide Web at:

Home - Last Updated: 
 © 2000 William S. Donaldson III.  All rights reserved