New Rule Targets Explosive Wiring Issues

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Almost ten years after an electrical fault is suspected to have caused the center tank of a TWA Boeing 747 to explode off New York (killing 230 people), the FAA has come up with a new set of proposed regulations aimed at ensuring (encouraging) airlines and manufacturers to better look after the lifeblood of their airplanes. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking would essentially treat wiring as a separate system, rather than as part of the other systems, thus boosting inspection, maintenance and design requirements that the FAA claims will actually save the airlines money. "There will be more efficient planning of maintenance programs and less down time for aircraft," FAA spokesman Hank Price told reporters. Instead of patching up wiring as needed, the new regimen would require more work to be done at fewer intervals. The changes will have a direct cost of $425 million over 25 years but Price said the efficiencies afforded will actually save the airlines $800 million. Besides the TWA flight, more than 400 wiring failures have been documented in airliners, including the downing of Swissair Flight 111 off Nova Scotia in 1998, which was believed to have been caused by overheated wiring in the plane's entertainment system.