Release No. APA 87-99
August 11, 1999
Contact: Alison Duquette
WASHINGTON, DC — To reduce the risk of the spread of fire aboard
aircraft, FAA Administrator Jane F. Garvey today said the agency
is ordering operators of 699 aircraft to replace insulation blankets
covered with metalized Mylar within four years. The FAA is also
strongly encouraging operators to accomplish the insulation
replacement during the earliest practical maintenance check.
The announcement follows eight months of extensive testing in
support of the development of a new test standard for aircraft
The FAA is going beyond the current, acceptable level of safety
and is proposing an even higher standard for testing insulation on
all new aircraft. The new test standard was developed by the FAA
with input from world-renowned fire experts. The agency plans to
issue a proposal for all new aircraft later this year.
While other insulation materials in the current U.S. fleet are safe, tests show that metalized Mylar falls far below the new test
standard. The proposed Airworthiness Directives (ADs) would
affect DC-10, MD-11, MD-80, MD-88, and MD-90 aircraft. They
will require operators to remove metalized Mylar-covered
insulation. Replacement materials must meet the FAA's new
proposed flame propagation standard that is based on the
American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standard for
flammability. Materials such as polyimide, certain
polyvinylfluorides and certain fluoropolymer composites have
been shown to be capable of meeting the ASTM test.
"The FAA's track record shows that we don't hesitate to have
airlines retrofit the fleet when there is a threat to passenger
safety," said Garvey. "We've weighed the benefit of replacing
insulation, reviewed the service history of these aircraft and have
made the right decision based on scientific data."
Anytime an aircraft is taken apart, there is a possible risk of
damaging aircraft wiring. Replacing aircraft insulation is complex
and must be performed safely to avoid unintended consequences.
Insulation is not easily accessible and replacement involves
removal of overhead panels and floors. The work must be
accomplished at the earliest maintenance check, but no later than
four years. This allows for a safe and deliberative process
designed to minimize the possibility of creating unintended safety
Flammability tests were conducted at the FAA's William J.
Hughes Technical Center, a premier aviation research,
development, engineering, test and evaluation facility located in
Atlantic City, N.J. Working with input from aviation experts
around the world, the FAA replicated how different insulation
materials behave in simulated fire situations. Using the new
standard, FAA scientists measured a material's ability to prevent
or contain the spread of fire. Metalized Mylar fell short of an
acceptable safety level and far below the new standard. It ignites
much more easily than other materials and can spread fire
because its properties are much different. The other materials
performed better than originally anticipated and meet the
acceptable level of safety. While these materials may not meet
the new, higher standard, they do not pose a threat to aviation
The FAA continues to work closely with the international aviation
community through the Joint Aviation Authorities in Europe and
with the Canadian and Japanese airworthiness authorities on the
new test standard for aircraft insulation.
Of the 1,230 airplanes in the worldwide fleet affected by the AD,
approximately 699 airplanes are registered in the United States.
U.S. operators include: American Airlines, Delta Air Lines,
Continental Airlines, Trans World Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Federal
Express, Reno Air, Aeromexico and US Airways.
The estimated cost to U.S. operators is approximately $255
million, $380,000 to $880,000 per airplane.
Comments must be received 45 days from publication in the