Associated Retired Aviation Professionals

Tuesday May 22, 9:17 am Eastern Time
Press Release
SOURCE: Wolk & Genter
Arthur Alan Wolk: FAA Concludes an Occasional TWA 800 Repeat Crash Is Cost Effective

PHILADELPHIA, May 22 /PRNewswire/ -- The following was issued today by Arthur Alan Wolk of Wolk and Genter:

In a stunning edition of a Special Federal Aviation Regulation (SFAR), the Federal Aviation Administration has concluded that it would be acceptable, from a cost standpoint, to accept another crash like TWA 800, rather than opt for a more expensive, but proven effective, fuel tank inerting system, reasoning that the cost of paying for lives lost and the aircraft would be cheaper than requiring a retrofit of a nitrogen based fuel tank inerting system that would guarantee no more fuel tank explosions.

In spite of a recent explosion of a Philippine Airlines 737 center fuel tank while the aircraft sat at the gate, an event Boeing and FAA officials argued was impossible, just like TWA 800, all the FAA has ordered is that each manufacturer of aircraft with more than thirty seats revalidate their fuel system certification analysis.

The FAA assumed that if it did nothing, there would be about five more fuel tank explosions in seventeen years. This calculation was made before the most recent that killed a flight attendant. The FAA went on to reason that if airlines keep the center fuel tanks fueled somewhat, and pilots don't run fuel pumps in a dry tank, about 4.3 of these accidents can be avoided -- leaving only .8 that are likely to occur. What that means is that if you are a passenger in a 350 seat airliner whose center fuel tank explodes, as you fall to earth, still alive in the fiery debris, you can rest assured that no other planeload of people as unfortunate as you will, statistically speaking, die the same way in the remaining portion of the seventeen years. Comforting, huh!

What is most remarkable about this abdication of responsibility is that statistical analysis of the risk was done by none other than the guys who certificated the airplanes' fuel systems as safe and who claimed that an explosion from such causes was impossible. The SFAR was in fact written with the help of none other than the plane makers and airlines who do not want to have to make a retrofit or design fuel inerting into new aircraft. In short, the foxes that guard the henhouse are responsible for the new rule.

Equally frightening is that in 1972, a test program funded by us taxpayers demonstrated that in a DC-9 aircraft fitted with a nitrogen inerting system, fuel system fires and explosions would be made impossible with such a system installed. The added weight, only 650 pounds! The system was found to work effectively and efficiently, yet nothing came of it to save the lives of over 230 innocent people in 1996 some 24 years later.

What mindset allows our Government to be so devoid of common sense and responsibility? The adage ``Close enough for Government work'' is the touchstone of FAA performance. Having found that manufacturers have failed to comply with the existing FAA regulations, the FAA, instead of making the airplanes safe and insisting on compliance, simply changed the regulations to save the industry money -- the same money that industry already saved by failing to meet the regulations in the first place. 

                                                  Arthur Alan Wolk
                                                  May 22, 2001

SOURCE: Wolk & Genter 

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