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WIRE:10/11/2000 16:26:00 ET

 


Wire Cracks Found in Tests of Older Jets



 WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Cracked insulation was found in the wires of six older, recently retired aircraft, but the Federal Aviation Administration said Wednesday it had no immediate safety concerns. Engineers removed wires from high-stress areas of the aircraft that were more than 20 years old as part of a government-industry task force effort to determine the extent to which aging wiring may threaten safety. "Cracks in wire do not in and of themselves present an immediate safety concern," FAA aircraft certification director Beth Erickson told reporters, noting that cracked insulation alone need not cause a problem unless it shorts with another wire or the plane. The aviation industry became sharply focused on wiring after the 1996 crash of a TWA Boeing 747 (BA.N) near New York that was blamed on a likely short circuit in its center fuel tank. The investigation of a fiery Swissair (SWSZn.S) MD-11 crash off the east coast of Canada in 1998 has focused on wiring in the cockpit. USA Today reported Wednesday that, in one of the aircraft examined, a Lockheed L-1011 wide-bodied jet, four cracks were found in every 1,000 feet of wire tested. The newspaper calculated the aircraft could have more than 3,100 wiring cracks, assuming roughly 150 miles of wiring in the whole aircraft. But Erickson said that number exaggerated the problem as the wire was taken from problem areas involving heat stress or tight turns that can abuse wire insulation. "It"s not right to extrapolate," she said. FAA declined to make the report available saying it was being delivered to the task force later Wednesday in preliminary form. Erickson said FAA had issued numerous directives on improving wiring in specific aircraft and more would likely be forthcoming as more data became available. The other five aircraft involved in the intrusive inspections were an Airbus (ARBU.UL) A300, a DC-9, a 747 and a DC-10. As of last month, U.S. airlines were operating 1,709 jets that are at least 20 years old, according to Christine Francoeur, president of Jet Information Services, which publishes the World Jet Inventory. Worldwide, airlines were operating 3,270 jets that old, she says. FAA said a separate non-intrusive inspection of 81 aircraft still in service had shown no fleet-wide safety concerns, but had pointed to a need to improve maintenance practices, training and better reporting of wire faults. Work was also proceeding on an advanced circuit breaker that could detect damaging wiring shorts sometimes undetected by existing technology, or detected after major damage has occurred. Two contracts have been issued to companies working on devices that will allow maintenance workers to test wires for faults without disturbing wire bundles. Experts say the very act of moving wires around to inspect them can cause damage.



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FAA To Look Again At Airplane Wiring 

(but this had been their first response)



Oct 13, 2000

US government and industry experts assembled after the crash of TWA Flight 800 off Long Island have found flaws in airplane wiring, some from age and some from damage during maintenance, and is developing new maintenance techniques and a new circuit breaker to reduce the chance of fires or explosions. 

The Federal Aviation Administration's director of aircraft certification, Elizabeth Erickson, said on Wednesday: "There is no immediate safety problem." 

But she predicted that in the next few months her agency would order inspection and perhaps replacement of particular segments of wiring in several jetliner models. 

The FAA agreed to discuss the preliminary findings of the wiring team, which began a two-day meeting in Washington on Wednesday, after some were disclosed in USA Today on Wednesday morning. 

The experts examined six recently retired commercial jets, each at least 20 years old, and 81 planes in service. They found that several parts of the planes had damaged wiring, including the forward edges of the wings, the wells into which the landing gears retract and any place near a heat source, although Ms Erickson said these cracks "do not, in and of themselves, represent a safety problem" in the absence of flammable material. 

A related problem is that the circuit breakers in common use on airplanes work much like those in houses: They stop the flow of electricity only if there is a short-circuit long enough to heat up the wiring. But researchers have miniaturized a circuit breaker that will cut off the current if there is a short-lived change in voltage, Ms Erickson said, and can thus stop electrical arcing almost immediately after it begins. The new circuit breaker has not yet been flown in test planes, however. 

   More of the same

Wednesday October 11 1:44 PM ET
Study Shows Need for Wiring Upgrade                                            Back to Story

By RANDOLPH E. SCHMID, Associated Press Writer 

WASHINGTON (AP) - Inspections of wiring on 81 airliners found ``room for improvement'' but no immediate safety problems, the Federal Aviation Administration (news - web sites) reported Wednesday.

While cracked insulation was found on wires in six recently retired planes, the cracks did not necessarily represent a hazard, said Elizabeth Erickson, director of aircraft certification for the Federal Aviation Administration.

``Cracked wires do not, in and of themselves, represent an immediate safety problem,'' Erickson said in a discussion of the agency's program to study aircraft wiring. But, she added, ``they are of concern to us.''

The FAA launched a program two years ago to study wiring in aircraft, particularly aging airliners. The advisory committee for that effort is meeting in Washington this week to review progress.

The National Transportation Safety Board has concluded that the destruction of TWA flight 800 four years ago, killing all 230 aboard, resulted from a fuel tank explosion, probably caused by a short circuit.

The FAA program studied airliners during their regular maintenance stops, looking specifically for wiring problems

``They found no immediate fleetwide safety issues, but they found definite room for improvement in maintenance practices,'' Erickson said.

Not all the problems were caused by aging, she added, noting, for example, that in some cases wiring insulation had been unintentionally damaged by work crews in tight areas.

``We found a need for better targeted inspection out there in the fleet,'' she said.

Erickson said Boeing and Airbus have advised airlines of problem areas so they can improve wiring inspections and noted maintenance reports are being changed to more completely show repairs made on wiring. The FAA is also improving its training of inspectors to better focus on wiring problems.

Erickson said the agency is also working on the development of new, more sensitive circuit breakers to shut off power when a short occurs in a wire and on technology to check the condition of wires throughout a plane.

Asked about reports that the cracked wiring found on the six retired airliners could mean some planes have hundreds of damaged wires, she insisted that assumption was incorrect.

Those inspections targeted areas where wiring was under the most stress, areas where it was exposed to heat or cramped into a tight areas, she said.

Those findings ``can't be extrapolated to the whole of the aircraft,'' she said.

The detailed wiring checks done on the six retired planes included removal of wiring bundles from various parts of the planes, a step that can't be done on aircraft that are still in service, she noted.

The six planes included an Airbus A300, two DC-9s, a Boeing 747, a DC-10 and a Lockheed L-1011.

http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/ap/20001011/pl/aircraft_wiring_1.html

______________________________________________________________________________
Wednesday October 11 4:26 PM ET
Wire Cracks Found in Tests of Older Jets 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Cracked insulation was found in the wires of six older, recently retired aircraft, but the Federal Aviation Administration (news - web sites) said Wednesday it had no immediate safety concerns.

Engineers removed wires from high-stress areas of the aircraft that were more than 20 years old as part of a government-industry task force effort to determine the extent to which aging wiring may threaten safety.

``Cracks in wire do not in and of themselves present an immediate safety concern,'' FAA aircraft certification director Beth Erickson told reporters, noting that cracked insulation alone need not cause a problem unless it shorts with another wire or the plane.

The aviation industry became sharply focused on wiring after the 1996 crash of a TWA Boeing 747 (NYSE:BA - news) near New York that was blamed on a likely short circuit in its center fuel tank.

The investigation of a fiery Swissair (SWSZn.S) MD-11 crash off the east coast of Canada in 1998 has focused on wiring in the cockpit.

USA Today reported Wednesday that, in one of the aircraft examined, a Lockheed L-1011 wide-bodied jet, four cracks were found in every 1,000 feet of wire tested.

The newspaper calculated the aircraft could have more than 3,100 wiring cracks, assuming roughly 150 miles of wiring in the whole aircraft.

But Erickson said that number exaggerated the problem as the wire was taken from problem areas involving heat stress or tight turns that can abuse wire insulation.

``It's not right to extrapolate,'' she said.

FAA declined to make the report available saying it was being delivered to the task force later Wednesday in preliminary form.

Erickson said FAA had issued numerous directives on improving wiring in specific aircraft and more would likely be forthcoming as more data became available.

The other five aircraft involved in the intrusive inspections were an Airbus (ARBU.UL) A300, a DC-9, a 747 and a DC-10.

As of last month, U.S. airlines were operating 1,709 jets that are at least 20 years old, according to Christine Francoeur, president of Jet Information Services, which publishes the World Jet Inventory. Worldwide, airlines were operating 3,270 jets that old, she says.

FAA said a separate non-intrusive inspection of 81 aircraft still in service had shown no fleet-wide safety concerns, but had pointed to a need to improve maintenance practices, training and better reporting of wire faults.

Work was also proceeding on an advanced circuit breaker that could detect damaging wiring shorts sometimes undetected by existing technology, or detected after major damage has occurred.

http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/nm/20001011/ts/airlines_faa_dc_2.html 

Two contracts have been issued to companies working on devices that will allow maintenance workers to test wires for faults without disturbing wire bundles. Experts say the very act of moving wires around to inspect them can cause damage.