NTSB Press Release

National Transportation Safety Board
Office of Public Affairs


February 17, 2004

National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Ellen Engleman-Conners today released the following statement in reaction to the issuance by the Federal Aviation Administration of a proposed rule requiring fuel tank flammability reduction systems in transport category aircraft, beginning with Boeing 747 models.

"I am pleased that we are nearing the end of a long road in greatly reducing the danger of fuel tank explosions on airliners. The Safety Board identified the problem in the early months of its investigation into the crash of TWA flight 800 in 1996 (see Safety Recommendation A-96-174).

Today's FAA proposed rule sets the basis for the certification of fuel tank flammability reduction systems. I recognize that the FAA's accomplishment comes despite the early industry and working group predictions that fuel tank inerting would be weight and cost prohibitive. I commend the FAA for taking a two-pronged approach to the problem by recognizing that ignition source prevention alone cannot protect transport airplanes from this potential danger, that the issue of fuel flammability had to be confronted. This proposed rule will incorporate new technology that will prevent the accumulation of explosive fuel/air vapors in aircraft fuel tanks.

In the last 14 years alone, 346 persons have lost their lives due to explosions of flammable fuel/air mixtures in airliner fuel tanks. The FAA has proposed the special conditions that will be required to prevent these losses from continuing in this first of numerous airplane models.

I'd like to acknowledge two Safety Board investigators - Dr. Joseph Kolly and Mr. Robert Swaim - who have been instrumental in this investigation and have led the Board's aggressive pursuit of inerting systems in transport category aircraft.

The Safety Board will analyze the FAA's action to determine the extent that it satisfies one of our Most Wanted safety recommendations, and looks forward to this technology being incorporated into all commercial air carrier aircraft."

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



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.