NC5 Investigates: Unsafe to Fly?
Congress Questions Safety of Airliner Wiring, Insulation
Posted: July 23, 2008 06:05 PM EDT
Congress Questions Safety Of Airline Wiring, Insulation
A NewsChannel 5 investigation of the airliners that you and I fly has the attention of Congress.
Congressman Bart Gordon wants the federal government to explain what it's doing to make sure those aircraft are safe.
Our chief investigative reporter Phil Williams first uncovered these questions, and he spoke with the Murfreesboro Democrat.
Gordon has some real pull on this issue. He's the chairman of the House Science Committee.
Now, in a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration, he's demanding to know what's being done to make sure these airliners don't become flying infernos.
The letter was written on behalf of the Science Committee.
Video from the FAA's own files shows what the federal government knows, but hasn't told the public -- how some aircraft wiring could turn airliners into virtual fire traps.
"As a frequent flier, it's fightening to see how that situation could just cascade into a real calamity," Gordon told Williams.
At issue: one type of highly-explosive wiring called Kapton and a second highly-flammable wiring called PVC-Nylon.
It's wiring that the FAA's own experts warn -- in a document first obtained by NewsChannel 5 Investigates -- "should not be used in airborne applications."
But, in fact, it's found on hundreds and hundreds of airliners flying every day.
Gordon wants to know whether the FAA plans to do anything about it.
"Or," he asked, "is this just an effort to run out the clock and let these old planes be retired and hope there is not going to be a problem. We can't do that."
He's also concerned about a repeat of the crash of SwissAir 111 into the Atlantic a decade ago, after an in-flight fire blamed on flammable insulation.
But our investigation discovered video of insulation that the FAA's researchers have warned could cause a "catastrophic fire."
Yet, it's also still on hundreds of airliners flying today.
"I simply would not want to go to the family of someone who died in a crash like the Swiss 111 and tell them that we knew that something should be done, but we just didn't get it done," Gordon said.
And he doesn't want it to be said that he didn't ask the tough questions.
In fact, our investigation discovered that there are some airliners that have that highly explosive wiring -- right next to that highly flammable insulation.
Gordon has given the FAA until early September to answer some very specific questions.
After that, he tells Phil Williams, congressional hearings could be next.
So if the FAA knows it's got a problem, why does the congressman think more is not being done?
That's what he wants to know. But he suspects it's because some in the F-A-A are more concerned about protecting the airlines' profits, instead of passengers' safety.
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