Formerly known as the Air Transport Association of America, the trade group Airlines for America has asked the FAA to postpone a requirement to equip passenger jets with kits designed to keep them from exploding. According to the group, the need for a delay can be traced back to the FAA. A 2008 FAA regulation requires that the kits be fitted to passenger jets to reduce the chance of volatile fuel-air mixtures leading to fuel-tank explosions that could damage (and have destroyed) aircraft and kill passengers. The trade group says the process that would lead to the FAA's own approval for those kits is behind schedule and that could force carriers to ground aircraft if they are forced to meet a 2014 deadline.
Per the regulation, passenger carriers have until December 2014 to fit half of their aircraft with devices that displace oxygen in fuel tanks and replace it with nitrogen. Airlines for America represents Southwest Airlines and Delta Air Lines, among other major carriers. It says the FAA must approve those kits and has fallen behind the pace necessary to meet the 2014 deadline. An exploding fuel tank is responsible for the second-worst aviation accident in the United States. On July 17, 1996, TWA Flight 800, a Boeing 747-131, fell into the sea off Long Island, N.Y., after exploding in the air shortly after departing JFK International airport. All 230 people on the jet perished. The NTSB found the explosion originated with the jet's center fuel tank. The FAA has since estimated that aircraft would suffer a fuel-tank explosion every four years, though some other measures have been put in place. In 2006, the wing tank of a Boeing 727-200 exploded while the aircraft was on the ground at Bangalore, India. In 2001 a Thai Airways 737-400 exploded while sitting on the ramp at Bangkok. Click for earlier AVweb coverage.