Deadlines Matter

By Debbie Hersman

It has been 16 years since the crash of TWA Flight 800. After an exhaustive four-year investigation, the NTSB concluded that the cause of this disaster was a center fuel tank explosion. Image

Among the many findings that came out of the NTSB’s investigation, we recommended that the FAA and manufacturers take steps to reduce the risk of future explosions. At the NTSB, we always stood by those recommendations, even when we were told that it could not be accomplished. In 2008, after many years of delay, the FAA finally produced the fuel tank flammability rule, which requires airlines to retrofit half of their fleets by 2014 and finish by 2017.

Unfortunately, the delays apparently continue. Today we learned that FAA fined the Boeing Company for failing to meet a Dec. 27, 2010, deadline to submit service instructions that would enable airlines to retrofit their fleets and thereby reduce the risk of fuel-tank explosions on Boeing jetliners. 

This is not just some bureaucratic Washington requirement. There are hundreds of U.S.-registered Boeing jetliners flying passengers that are being placed at risk by these delays.  It is critically important that the operators of these aircraft implement the recommended changes. 

Sixteen years is too long to wait to prevent another accident.  Deadlines do matter.

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