NTSB Investigates 757 In-Flight Cockpit Fire

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United Airlines Flight 27 diverted to IAD and landed safely, but the NTSB is investigating the fire that broke out May 16 on the flight deck of the Boeing 757, absorbed two fire extinguishers, and ultimately cracked the captain's windshield. Early investigation shows the fire consumed elements associated with the windscreen's heating system. The NTSB reported that the captain and first officer were about 30 minutes out of JFK for LAX, at approximately 9:17 p.m., when they noted a "strong acrid smell and observed smoke from the Captain's lower front windshield." The aircraft, with 112 aboard, was level at 36,000 MSL at the time. The crew told the NTSB they immediately donned oxygen masks and smoke goggles and segregated tasks, turning control of the aircraft to the first officer as the captain addressed the fire. Smoke and fire dissipated after the captain emptied a halon extinguisher into the flames, but the fire reignited.

The captain then emptied a second bottle he'd obtained from the flight's purser and the fire remained extinguished for the remainder of the flight. The crew diverted to Dulles and were at approximately 500 feet on final to Runway 19L when the inner pane of the captain's windshield cracked. The aircraft landed safely and was met by fire personnel, but not evacuated. Preliminary investigation revealed that "One of the five terminal blocks attached to the inside of the lower left windshield was consumed by fire and the portion of the wire harness associated with this terminal block was significantly damaged by fire." The NTSB noted that two previous windshield fire events on B757-200 aircraft resulted in a Safety Recommendation (PDF). The board will be working to see if the latest incident is related. Find the NTSB's press release here.