August 6, 2009 | Barb Carr

Just a Specific Aircraft Problem? FAA Orders Changes To Boeing 767 Fuel Tanks

The Federal Aviation Administration directive gives operators of the popular airliner three years to install an automatic fuel pump shut-off system for the center fuel tanks on 767s. The concern is that if fuel in the tank dips too low while the pump is still operating, that could ignite fuel and air vapors in certain conditions.

In the meantime, flight crews are supposed to close the pumps themselves when fuel gets low.

From another report: Boeing spokeswoman Liz Verdier said the Chicago-based aircraft manufacturer sent operators of 767s a service bulletin two years ago recommending the changes in Wednesday’s FAA order. Compliance with service bulletins is voluntary. Verdier said she didn’t know how many operators may have already installed the automatic shut-off systems.

FAA has no authority to order foreign carriers operating 767s to install the shut-off systems, but most operators usually comply voluntarily or are ordered to do so by aviation authorities in their countries. There are about 960 of the 767s in operation worldwide, including 414 in the U.S., Verdier said.

Being an ex-fuel tank mechanic and a current frequent flyer, I am all about making the airplane safer for flight. But I have to question is this grasping for straws, making decisions to make it safer because no other finding could be found with recent center wing tank explosions? If this is an issue with 767’s why not with other aircraft? After all, many fuel pumps are similar in specification and type. What makes this one situation special?

Granted each aircraft has its own characteristics and even act differently in different parts of the world. This fix also reminds me of a not so old report where it was believed that ice choked the fuel supply to a large airframe. Only problem is that investigators could duplicate the incident. So when developing corrective actions you should have the root causes first. If the risk is present then why does it not affect other similar systems? If it is a danger to one then it is a danger to all. So make them all safe.

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