For Immediate Release

Release No. AOC 39-05
November 14, 2005
Contact: Alison Duquette
Phone: 202-267-3883

WASHINGTON, DC — The U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) today proposed a rule that would make aviation significantly safer by requiring more than 3,200 existing and certain new large passenger jets to reduce flammability levels of fuel tank vapors.

"Safer fuel tanks on aircraft will help prevent the possibility of future explosions and the tragic loss of lives," U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta said.

The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) would require aircraft operators to reduce the flammability levels of fuel tank vapors on the ground and in the air to remove the likelihood of a potential explosion from an ignition source. The proposed rule is designed to reduce the likelihood of a repeat of the four fuel tank explosions over the past 16 years, including the 1996 TWA 800 accident, that together have resulted in 346 fatalities.

"This proposed rule is the next step to close the book on fuel tank explosions," said FAA Administrator Marion C. Blakey. "We're proposing to increase the level of aircraft safety by reducing the potentially explosive ingredient of flammable fuel vapors."

Blakey added that today's proposed rule builds on more than 70 directives during the past nine years designed to eliminate ignition sources and to change fuel tank design and maintenance. Previous directives have addressed issues such as pump manufacturing discrepancies, wire chafing, and protection of the Fuel Quantity Indication System.

One possible solution allowed by the rule is fuel tank inerting. In May 2002, FAA engineers unveiled a prototype to replace oxygen in the fuel tank with inert gas, which prevents the potential ignition of flammable vapors. Boeing has since developed its own system, which will be installed on new airplanes. The FAA will consider data supporting other means of compliance.

The FAA's proposal would apply to new large airplane designs. In addition, since the FAA would require a retrofit of more than 3,200 Airbus and Boeing aircraft with center wing fuel tanks over seven years, Boeing 737, Boeing 747, and Airbus A320 models would be retrofitted first. The preliminary estimate for the total cost for the U.S. fleet is approximately $808 million over 49 years, including $313 million for retrofitting the existing fleet. The following is the projected U.S. aircraft fleet that would be retrofitted:

Airbus Models Number of Aircraft
Airbus A320 906
Airbus A330 44
Boeing Models Number of Aircraft
Boeing 737 1,149
Boeing 747 93
Boeing 757 581
Boeing 767 347
Boeing 777 157

The NPRM is on display today at the Federal Register. It is available on the Internet at, docket FAA 2005-22997 and on the FAA's website at /rulemaking/recently_published/. The 120-day public comment period closes on March 20, 2006.