Boeing halts delivery of 34 planes
'Not...an immediate safety concern'
November 2, 1999
SEATTLE (CNN) -- Boeing has suspended the delivery of 747s, 757s, 767s, and 777s because a cockpit part was made improperly and could burn too easily, a company official said.
The "non-conforming" parts failed to meet FAA flammability regulations, the company official said.
The suspension is not connected with the crash of EgyptAir Flight 990 on Sunday, said Jeff Hawk, director of airplane certification for Boeing Commercial Airplanes Group, said late Monday.
Hundreds of the listed models currently in use were made with "non-conforming" drip shields, which are designed to prevent condensation from reaching vital wiring and instruments in the cockpit.
Delivery of 34 new planes has been suspended for "a few days" while Boeing works to bring the jets up to standards. Hawk said the company does not expect any layoffs as a result of the problem.
"We are identifying the in-service airplanes affected and we are working with the FAA to develop a plan to address them. This is not related to any accident, incident or in-service event," Hawk said.
The company has taken action to correct the problem on its assembly lines and is currently gathering information about how far back the problem dates, Hawk said.
"This non-conformance happened a while ago," he added.
"We do not see this an immediate safety concern," Hawk said during a late night teleconference call with reporters. "It's not connected to the EgyptAir event at all."
He said the EgyptAir jet was built with a "conforming drip shield," as was a Lauda Air 767 that crashed in Thailand in 1991.
Flammability test showed problem
Hawk said the problem was discovered in a flammability test that revealed a problem with the bonding of the drip shield, which is made up of three layers encasing the cockpit. The piece, he said, failed to meet the standard for "the ability of the material to self-extinguish."
"The flammability characteristics are different from the flammability characteristics when properly built," he said. "Installation is not the issue, it's the means by which they were manufactured."
"They do not meet the Boeing design standard."
The drip shields are manufactured at a Boeing factory in Spokane, Washington. Hawk would not give the cost of a drip shield or estimate the time and expense required to fix the problem.
"If we would have to replace them, it would be some significant work to get to the drip shield," he said.
Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Kirsti Dunn said Boeing notified the agency last Thursday that the "insulation in the cockpit, constituting part of the drip shield, does not comply" with FAA guidelines.
She said Boeing conducted the flammability test and promptly informed the FAA of the problem.
The FAA and Boeing have since been working together on the problem. As part of that, Boeing agreed to halt delivery of the new airplanes until they are in compliance, Dunn said.
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