Moves to Boost Plane Fuel Tank Safety
Tue February 17, 2004 12:31 PM ET
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. regulators on Tuesday said they plan
to order modifications on 3,800 commercial airplanes to reduce
chances of a fuel tank explosion like the one that brought down
TWA Flight 800 in 1996.
The initiative, once dismissed as too expensive and impractical
for the passenger fleet, could cost the industry at least $530
million over several years, the Federal Aviation Administration
"Our people have really brought us to a breakthrough on
virtually eliminating fuel tank explosions on aircraft like the
one that brought down TWA 800," FAA Administrator Marion
In that case, investigators concluded a wiring problem
triggered an electrical short that ignited fuel vapors in the
center-wing tank of the older model Boeing 747. The plane crashed
in the Atlantic off New York's Long Island, killing all 230 people
Blakey said the FAA will propose a regulation later this year
requiring the industry to install a fuel tank safety device on new
planes made by Airbus (EAD.DE: Quote,
and Boeing Co. (BA.N: Quote,
and retrofit existing aircraft over a seven-year period.
Regulations, however, can take years to finalize.
The on-board device is designed to reduce the threat of
combustion by neutralizing the potentially volatile fuel-air
mixture in empty or emptying tanks. This is achieved by replacing
oxygen with nitrogen-enriched air.
Certain commercial aircraft models, like the Boeing 747 and 737
and the Airbus A320, could be modified first, the FAA said.