The Wall Street Journal
By ANDY PASZTOR
Updated Dec. 31, 2015 7:34 p.m. ET
Federal aviation regulators are proposing safety fixes affecting more than 300 Boeing 767 jetliners to prevent the unexpected deployment of emergency escape slides.
The preliminary Federal Aviation Administration directive, which would apply directly only to 767 aircraft operated by U.S. carriers, was prompted by what the agency described as “multiple reports of uncommanded escape slide inflation.” Foreign carriers flying hundreds of other 767s, however, eventually would be expected to comply with the FAA’s final mandate.
The FAA’s proposal is unusual because it concerns slides possibly opening during normal operations, not problems with deployment during emergencies.
The agency typically has ordered airlines to inspect or fix suspect slides on various aircraft because they may have a propensity to deploy improperly, or fail to deploy altogether, in emergency situations. There have been numerous such mandates over the past 15 years affecting Boeing aircraft, along with those covering models manufactured by other plane makers.
During that period, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board has repeatedly weighed in to urge FAA action to ensure that all slides inflate and are positioned as required in actual aircraft evacuations.
A number of high-profile commercial aircraft accidents around the world, including an Asiana Airlines Boeing 777 that crashed on approach to San Francisco International Airport in July 2013, have shown that evacuation slides often don’t operate as desired. In the Asiana crash, which killed three passengers, a pair of slides malfunctioned due to impact forces.
But this time, the FAA is addressing a different problem. The agency wants airlines to replace certain valves that could cause premature or unwanted deployment of escape slides on 767s “during normal airplane maintenance or operations.”
The result, according to the FAA document, could be “injury to passengers and crew, damage to equipment, and the slide becoming unusable in an emergency evacuation.”
The proposal requires modifying valves that help control slides attached to several different doors on 767 aircraft. The FAA didn’t elaborate on the details of the earlier unwanted deployments, but the document didn’t indicate they occurred while planes were airborne.
The proposal is subject to industry and public comment before it becomes final.
The FAA apparently doesn’t consider the problem to pose an imminent hazard, because the agency envisions giving some airlines nearly four years to make the fixes.
Boeing issued a nonbinding service bulletin in April, advising airlines world-wide about the problem and including instructions for completing the fixes. According to the FAA document posted on the Federal Register website Thursday, Boeing also issued an earlier service bulletin in November 2014.
Original article can be found here: http://www.wsj.com