NTSB Press Release

National Transportation Safety Board
Office of Public Affairs


STATEMENT OF NTSB ACTING CHAIRMAN CAROL CARMODY ON ARAC REPORT ON AIRLINER FUEL TANK FLAMMABILITY

August 8, 2001

The Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee, made up of airline industry and Federal Aviation Administration representatives, today submitted a report on its study of methods of dealing with airliner fuel tank flammability. The National Transportation Safety Board recommended in December 1996 both design and operational changes, following its finding that TWA flight 800 suffered a fuel tank explosion. Acting Chairman Carol Carmody today released the following statement in response to the working group report.

The working group’s report clearly demonstrates the significant benefits to fuel tank safety and the consequent reduction in air transport fatalities provided by inerting. I am disappointed that their cost-benefit analysis leads them not to recommend inerting systems. We question the factual basis for the cost-benefit analysis presented in the report. I am pleased that the ARAC Executive Committee appears to share our concerns and has requested further clarification of that analysis.

This is an important issue, and the Safety Board recognizes that there may be a number of different ways to counteract fuel tank flammability in the existing fleet. Extensive research into the crash of TWA flight 800 revealed that dangerous conditions in fuel tanks occur more commonly than had been believed, and that there are numerous potential sources of energy to ignite fuel tank vapors. Despite the aviation community’s best efforts, we can never be sure that all possible ignition sources have been eliminated. The Safety Board strongly believes that near-term measures to eliminate flammable fuel tank vapors are necessary and prudent.

The recent destruction of a Boeing 737 in Thailand shows that center fuel tank explosions continue to occur, and likely will occur again in the future. This problem must be addressed if we are to maintain the confidence of the traveling public.

NTSB Office of Public Affairs: (202) 314-6100

 

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The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is an independent federal agency charged with determining the probable cause
of transportation accidents, promoting transportation safety, and assisting victims of transportation accidents and their families.