Air Safety Week:
In the Spotlight Again
Even though the airplanes affected are in foreign service, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) wants action taken to prevent wire chafing in the video control center (VCC) units on certain B767-200 and -300 aircraft. Operators have until Feb. 4, 2004, to comply with the July 18 airworthiness directive (AD 2003-14-01). The action relates to a Jan. 17, 2002, electrical system fire in the video system management unit (SMU) on an Air Canada A330 (see ASW, April 14).
"During post-delivery modifications ... the manufacturer found that the rudder cables and the first officer's elevator control cables may come in contact with the video control center wires, which could result in possible chafing and subsequent arcing of the wires in the wire bundles and severing of the cables," the AD said.
The AD is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg of problems with in-flight entertainment systems. ASW contributing editor Alex Richman of AlgoPlus Consulting has compiled from the service difficulty report (SDR) database at least 12 reports of various problems this year with in-flight entertainment systems and associated hardwire/wiring. Given gaps in SDR reporting, the list is probably partial. Non-smoking events (i.e., unpowered equipment) apparently are not being reported. The most common problems appear to involve component failure/overheat or short circuit. Richman said he sees three things in these reports: (1) the problems are persisting, (2) the problems predominate in newer aircraft types, which are more likely to be equipped with in-flight entertainment systems, and (3) the problems are pervasive through various parts of the entertainment system.
It is possible that COTS (commercial off the shelf) items are involved. Components for military use are built to a MIL SPEC, but in commercial aviation the application of military standards could impose prohibitive costs. However an argument could be made that electrical failure and smoke/fire in an aircraft is always critical. In addition, the cost of a diversion is frequently involved (and loss of aircraft utilization, crew replacement, etc.). Some would argue that urgent unplanned diversions are inherently hazardous, especially if there is any delay, as was the case in the 1998 crash of Swissair Flight 111. Richman, e-mail email@example.com
Shorted, Smoking, Burning, Broken Problems with in-flight entertainment systems in 2003 Based on service difficulty reports (SDRs)
Date Airplane Problem
June 16 B737-300 Burning/electrical odor: Climbing through FL 240, forward cabin flight attendant reported a burning/electrical odor. Maintenance found the No. 2 video monitor emitting the burning/electrical odor. Removed and replaced. Operational check good.
April 24 Gulfstream GV Entertainment system controller corroded by leaking battery: During routine inspection passenger cabin entertainment system controller ... and components were being replaced. Prior to installation, a bench check was performed on units and the units failed test. Corrosion was noted on the inside of the unit due to internal 12-volt Gelpack battery leaking. Units installed in the aircraft exhibited signs of corrosion also. Units can be installed at various locations within passenger cabin and may be installed on various other model aircraft (emphasis added).
April 7 B767-300 Projector internally shorted: Enroute ATL/SCL report strong odor of burned plastic ... first two rows of seats of the left side of the cabin. Crew turned off IFE and utility busses. Odor dissipated. Mainte-nance found the forward projector internally shorted. Replaced projector.
March 3 B747-400 Seat unit failed: Enroute to HNL an overheated plastic odor was detected about 45 min. before seat 79AB PVS failed. Replaced UEB [underseat electronics box], SEB [seat electronics box] and console.
March 2 B767-300 Smoke in cabin: AVU [audio-visual unit] in forward closet has internal short. Disconnected AVU and pulled and collared circuit breakers. Replaced VCC [video control console] AVU and when power was turned on found smoke coming from the VMOD [circuit board for VMEBus]. Replaced VMOD and ops check good.
Jan. 27 B767-200 Faulty module: Electrical odor forward cabin vicinity entertainment system equipment. Secured both utility busses for remainder of flight. Found VCC/VMOD bad, shut down IFE system; pulled and collared VCC circuit breakers ... on panel 101 lower E/E [electronics & equipment] bay.
Jan. 18 B777-200 Video unit broken: Enroute SJC-NRT, noted seat 2A video player smoking. Main power to video system turned off. Found personal video player ... case broken at seat 2A and all IFE cables check good. Replaced personal video player at seat 2A. System ground checked normal operation.
Jan. 14 B777-200 Burnt connector: Found burned connector J2 input to VDU 7 ... replaced VDU 7. Pulled and collared C/B.
Jan. 9 A320 Failed capacitor (corroded): Electrical odor mid cabin on final approach. Area inspected with no noticeable defects. Live TV circuit breaker pulled and collared as precaution. Preliminary finding: seat electronics box, internal power supply capacitor C12 appears to have failed.
Jan. 6 B767-300 Entertainment system contaminated cabin: Electrical plastic smell reported by flight attendant just behind cockpit door in video closet. Deactivate IFE per MEL [minimum equipment list]. Removed loads of dust and debris from behind IFE components. Found duty free brochures and several seals from tape box VMOD loaded with dust and lint. Removed all. System ops normal and had no odors from area.
Jan. 2 MD-11 Display failed: Seat 1B video screen had electrical odor. Liquid spilled in area; odor dissipated; screen now inoperative. Reactivated seat entertainment system. Found bad SDU [system display unit] caused SCC [system control console] in audio/video unit to fail. Replaced ... and entertainment sys ops normal.
Jan. 1 B777-200 Monitor failure: Passenger seat 30J in-seat video monitor inoperative, won't turn on. Has a strong electrical smell. Removed monitor, all mounting hardware. ETOPS [extended operations] category 'F': any other event detrimental to ETOPS..
Compiled by AlgoPlus Consulting Ltd
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