TWA 800 Problem Still Exists

A decade after TWA Flight 800 exploded in flight shortly after take-off from New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, the culprit—an explosion caused by a spark in the vapor-filled center tank—has not been fixed on other Boeing 747 jets. Federal Aviation Administration officials warn that new safeguards are needed, or four more TWA-type disasters will likely happen over the next five decades. The FAA wants jets equipped with a nitrogen safety system that would remove oxygen from fuel tanks, thus preventing any explosion, and is considering requiring the new safety system for all new aircraft. It also is considering ordering airlines to retrofit 3,800 Boeing 747 jets. Airlines oppose the proposed changes, saying the statistics are fatally flawed. The Air Transport Association, an airline industry trade group, says the changes don't make sense from either a safety or cost-benefit analysis. The FAA has not yet made a final decision on ordering airlines to make the changes. That said, Boeing plans to install a nitrogen safety system on any new planes it builds—with or without being ordered to do so from the FAA mandate. Airbus says it will comply if the FAA orders additional safety measures.

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