For Immediate Release

Release No. APA 37-00
May 25, 2000
Contact: Les Dorr, Jr.
Phone: 202-267-8521

WASHINGTON, DC — The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) today issued final rules ordering operators of 719 Boeing MD-80, MD-88, MD-90, DC-10 and MD-11 aircraft to replace insulation blankets covered with metalized Mylar. The agency proposed the rules last August to minimize the risk of fire spreading aboard these types of aircraft.

Today's Airworthiness Directives require operators to determine whether their planes have metalized Mylar-covered insulation materials and where, then replace them with new insulation blankets within five years. Replacement materials must meet the FAA's new flame propagation standard, which is based on an American Society for Testing and Materials flammability standard.

"The risk of fire aboard these aircraft is very low, but this is a prudent action to take to raise the bar on safety," said FAA Administrator Jane F. Garvey.

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 soon. 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 FAA continues to work closely with the international aviation community through the International Aircraft Materials Fire Test Working Group on the new test standard for aircraft insulation. In addition, the FAA and Boeing are studying procedures for flight crews to follow in the rare event of smoke in the airplane to make sure the procedures are correct and properly prioritized.

The FAA Flight Standards Service also plans to issue advisory information to operators to conduct special emphasis inspections of thermal acoustical insulation during general maintenance and inspections. This information bulletin will provide details on how to recognize contaminated insulation blankets that could pose an increased hazard to the airplane. The bulletin will be issued after formal coordination with union representatives.

Today order affects 719 U.S.-registered aircraft; the worldwide fleet numbers approximately 1,500. U.S. operators include: Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Boeing, Continental Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Federal Express, Frontier Airlines, Midwest Express, Northwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines, Trans World Airlines, US Airways and World Airways.

The estimated cost to U.S. operators to replace insulation in all these models of aircraft is approximately $368.4 million.