FAA Issues Cockpit-Window Safety Mandates
By ANDY PASZTOR
Federal air-safety regulators ordered stepped-up inspections or replacement of certain cockpit windows that—since the 1980s—have caused at least 11 fires or smoke incidents on widely-used Boeing Co. jet models.
The directive, made public Friday by the Federal Aviation Administration, affects more than 1,200 jets manufactured by Boeing and flown by U.S. airlines. It covers Boeing 757, 767 and 777 models, all of which have similar window-heater designs prone to electrical shorts or other malfunctions that can lead to smoke or fire. Hundreds of Boeing jets operated by foreign carriers eventually are expected to be subject to the same rules.
The agency also said it plans to mandate similar enhanced maintenance procedures for Boeing 747 jumbo jets.
Originally proposed more than a year ago, the move had been widely anticipated since the FAA’s announcement earlier this year that it was speeding up work on the directive.
Some airlines already have voluntarily shortened inspection intervals for the suspect parts, while AMR Corp.’s American Airlines is close to finishing voluntary replacement of certain cockpit windows on a large portion of its overall fleet.
The latest FAA order, however, doesn’t go as far as some pilot groups advocated in mandating swift, across-the-board replacement of certain cockpit windows. The heating systems are used to prevent ice from building up on cockpit windows.
The safety issue moved back into the public spotlight after a United Airlines Boeing 757 was forced to make an emergency landing in May at Dulles International Airport near Washington D.C. after a window-heating element malfunctioned and caused a fire in the cockpit.
Boeing in the past has identified more than two dozen smoke or fire incidents traced to defective or malfunctioning cockpit window heating systems. The latest FAA directive covers only forward-looking cockpit windows, not side cockpit windows.
Boeing has issued a string of service bulletins warning airlines about the hazards, and urging various changes in inspection procedures.
Write to Andy Pasztor at andy.pasztor
Copyright 2009 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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