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Deadly In-flight Connections-AIR SAFETY WEEK
Unsafe Connections

Potentially deadly in-flight entertainment (IFE) installations are still alive and well inside the new high-integrity supplemental type certification (STC) system. A notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Sept. 4 notes that a particular IFE installed per STC on a few Boeing 737-200s could compromise the pilots' ability to "control smoke or fumes in the airplane." According to the NPRM, the installation did not give the crew a means of removing power from the IFE in an emergency situation. This problem first surfaced in the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) of Canada's investigation into the Swissair Flight 111 disaster. The only way to remove power on the IFE installed in the accident MD-11 was by pulling circuit breakers, a process deemed inadequate in the NPRM.

In the NPRM, the FAA articulates its safety concern: "The IFE system on these airplanes is connected to an electrical bus that cannot be deactivated without also removing power from airplane systems necessary for safe flight and landing." Therein lies the lesson of Swissair 111, as the IFE in this airplane also was connected to a flight critical bus.

In the NPRM's call to disconnect this particular IFE, the FAA alludes to a larger study of IFEs installed by approval of FAA-issued STCs during the 1992-2000 timeframe. The NPRM is the latest action in a campaign to eliminate all such IFE installations. So far, according to the NPRM, similar STC-approved IFE installations have been voided on 11 different aircraft models. Comments on this latest action are due Oct. 20 (Docket No. 2002-NM-238-AD).
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