United 757 Lands With Serious Cockpit Fire

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A United 757 en route from New York to Los Angeles Monday made an emergency landing at Dulles following a cockpit fire that may have been more serious than initially reported. Passengers told the Associated Press Monday afternoon that shortly after take off, they smelled smoke and a flight crew member opened the cockpit door requesting a fire extinguisher. The passenger told the AP that open flames were visible and at least one windshield was cracked.

The aircraft diverted to Dulles and made a successful landing with no injuries to the 112 people aboard. Passengers said smoke was visible in at least the first class section of the airplane. The cause of the fire was not immediately known on Monday, but there have been incidents with the windshield heating circuits in Boeing 747, 757, 767 and 777 aircraft. Boeing told the AP Monday that there have been 29 incidents in eight years involving these aircraft models. The company issued safety and service bulletins between 2004 and 2007 requiring checks of windshield heating wiring. Aircraft made since 2005 have a different windshield heating design. In 2007, the NTSB recommended to the FAA that airlines be required to either set up recurring inspection of the windshield heat terminal blocks or replace them with an improved design. The airlines opposed this ruling and it hasn't been made final yet. Overheated windshields have been a worry in the 757 at least since the early 1990s. The FAA sought a $1.45 million fine against Northwest Airlines last March for failing to carry out inspections on its aircraft.