"Fuel Tank Flammability"
Robert A. Sturgell, Washington, D.C.
July 16, 2008

Inerting Press Conference

Good morning. I'm honored to be here today as we take another step forward on what has been a long journey of investigation, discovery, innovation and cooperation. Every step in the process of finding answers and creating solutions has been driven by our need to serve 230 families who simply asked, “Why?”

Our intent today is to close the door on fuel tank explosions. That is what today is all about.

Through the years, as we delved into finding a solution, we took action on two paths. First, while we were looking for a viable fix to address flammability, we made some immediate changes to attack ignition sources, issuing more than 150 airworthiness directives and other factors that could cause another catastrophe. I can assure you the safety level of commercial airplane fuel tanks is far greater today than at the time of Flight 800.

Second, FAA engineers and scientists addressed the flammability of fuel tanks by developing an inerting system that works — something early on people said could not be done. We’ve worked with Boeing to further develop the technology so that it will now be mandatory. Older aircraft will be required to retrofit their systems. New aircraft will have the technology built in.

Every member of our research, compliance, certification and operations teams involved in this process over the last 12 years has had one thing in mind:  to prevent another tragedy like Flight 800. We have been mindful all along the way of our mission as stewards of the skies — to ensure the safety of those we serve.

With that said, I think that the NTSB deserves particular recognition today. First, for completing one of history’s most challenging and comprehensive aircraft accident investigations, and identifying this critical safety issue; and second, for being steadfast advocates for the safety improvement we are realizing today. From Chairmen Hall, Blakey, Engleman, Connors and now to Chairman Rosenker, I want to thank you, Mark, for your personal commitment and involvement on this issue.

And finally, to the families of Flight 800, we again offer you thanks for your inspiration and for your vigilance and dedication to ensuring that the safety of future generations remains topmost in our minds.