Flaming Wires Show Flaws of FAA Flammability Test - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Flaming Wires Show Flaws of FAA Flammability Test

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For more than 35 years, the Federal Aviation Administration has required that aircraft wiring be tested to prove that it's not flammable.

So how well does that test work?

Well, the FAA set up a test, using basic telecommunications cable.

Once the flame was applied, the cable began flaming like a candle wick.

In fact, the smoke got so thick that the people running this test had to evacuate the test facility.

But here's the problem: that communications cable actually passed the FAA's 35-year-old flammability test.

That could be a big problem if this were put into an airliner.

In fact, the FAA has known that it needs a new flammability test for years. We found notes going back at least six years.

2002:  Agency's fire safety chief tells an FAA panel "there is a need for a more stringent flammability test for aircraft wiring."

2004:  FAA's Technical Center publishes report that the 1972 test "may not disqualify wiring that propagates a fire when subjected to a severe ignition source."

2006:  Article in FAA research publication reaffirms need to seek a new flammablity test for wiring.

The agency says it's working on one right now.

But because it's taken so long to deal with the issue, any aircraft built today -- and wired under the old standard -- will probably be allowed to fly another 30 or 40 years.

Back to NC5 Investigates: Unsafe to Fly
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