Older Boeings Need New Insulation

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Operators of 1,600 older Boeing airliners may have to fork out a total of up to $660 million (an average of about $400,000 per plane) to replace insulation in the cabin walls if they want to keep them flying beyond 2011. The FAA Friday issued a release proposing an Airworthiness Directive that identifies the transparent film on the insulation, called AN-26, as a potential fire hazard. The film was manufactured by Orcon Corp. between 1981 and 1988. The film apparently no longer meets fire spread standards, which Boeing attributes to age and contamination. Operators of Boeing 737s, the most commonly used airliner in the world and the smallest of the affected aircraft (727, 747, 757 and 767 models are also affected) will spend 4,200 hours removing and replacing the insulation. It'll take almost four times that long on a jumbo. Boeing is working on another, less expensive solution. The plane-maker is developing a spray-on coating that it hopes will correct the problem. The spray is expected to be ready in a year but it will still cost $400 million, or about $250,000 per plane. The problem was discovered after a fire in the cargo hold of a parked airplane in 2002. Of the 1,600 planes affected, 831 are registered in the U.S. Other countries generally adopt FAA directives of this sort. Operators will have six years to comply.