How Safe is Airline Wiring? Read Statements From FAA - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

How Safe is Airline Wiring? Read Statements From FAA

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The Federal Aviation Administration, through its headquarters in Washington, D.C., issued the following statement to NewsChannel 5 Investigates:

"The FAA has had a vigorous wiring safety program in place for a decade, culminating with publication of the Enhanced Airworthiness Program for Airplane Systems/Fuel Tank Safety final rule in November 2007. With this final rule we are introducing new maintenance, inspection, and design criteria for airplane wiring to address conditions that put transport airplanes at risk of wire failures, smoke, and fire.

"The FAA believes that the type of wire is far less important than proper system design, installation, maintenance and training. When those four criteria are met, any type of wire should be acceptable for use in aircraft."

Still, some of the nation's top wiring experts suggested, as part of a January 2008 study commissioned and published by the FAA, that PVC and Kapton (polyimide) wire "should not be used in airborne applications." (Click here for the quoted excerpt.  Click here for the full report.)

In response to questions about that statement, the FAA's William J. Hughes Technical Center issued the following statement:

"The line from Appendix C of the Aircraft Wiring Degradation Study was one line from the appendix of a 265-page report where many differing views were presented. It was based on one type of test that had been conducted. There is no one type of wire that is perfect for all applications.

"Arcing is not caused by wire insulation; it is caused by the power in the wire. Arcing (regardless of insulation type) reaches temperatures of 5000-10000 degrees C. Polyimide tends to arc track (spread) more than most other types of wires. Polyimide is the best insulation for fire resistance, insulation resistance and weight. Polyimide does not work well in humid environments due to its chemistry.

"We, along with other government agencies and industry, have worked to produce alternatives to polyimide that are available. We have also produced technology that mitigates the effects of acing faults - arc fault circuit breakers, fault current management and new materials.

"We have produced rules (the Enhanced Airworthiness Program for Aircraft Safety rule that came out in November) to educate and inform the aviation community about all electrical wiring interconnection system (EWIS) hazards. We have preformed the most comprehensive study of EWIS issues and developed the most technology for the safe transmission of power in the aircraft. Our training programs have created a new awareness that can be seen in the reduced amount of wire related incidents and in the reports with more detail then ever before."

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