A three-day fuel-systems-safety conference scheduled for early October may produce clues to the cause of the 17 July, 1996 crash of Trans World Airlines Flight 800, the US Federal Aviation Administration hopes.

The Boeing 747-100 crashed off Long Island after leaving New York's Kennedy Airport. In the year since the accident, investigators still have not discovered why the aircraft's centre-wing tank exploded. They have not found the ignition source and several theories remain under investigation.

Airlines have told the FAA that more research is required before implementing costly changes in the way that it certificates commercial-aircraft fuel systems. Of particular interest to the operators is a US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommendation for nitrogen-inerting systems in commercial-transport fuel tanks. The FAA still believes that the key to fuel-tank safety remains the elimination of ignition sources. The agency will decide later this year whether to adopt any of the NTSB recommendations.

Meanwhile, the Transport Fuel Flammability Conference, sponsored by the FAA and the Society of Automotive Engineers, will convene in Washington DC from 7-9 October to discuss technical issues.

Representatives from government, industry and academia will make presentations on the dynamics of fuel flammability and discuss current research findings. Manufacturers will discuss aircraft fuel-system design philosophies, safety considerations and testing, while airlines will cover maintenance and fuelling procedures.

Source: Flight International