The US Federal Aviation Administration is to unveil in the next few weeks a new safety initiative covering detailed inspection of wiring and other operating systems for older airliners.

The probe, with phased implementation, will cover such systems as aircraft wiring, control systems, hydraulics, pneumatics and pumps. The safety initiative, expected to be a joint government-industry effort, will be similar to the agency's existing ageing-aircraft inspection programme, which covers the structure of older airliners.

The ageing-aircraft project grew out of the accident in 1988 to an Aloha Airlines Boeing 737, when its upper fuselage skin peeled away in flight because of corrosion which went undetected during normal maintenance inspections.

The FAA says that the safety project is partially connected to fuel tank wiring checks ordered in the wake of the loss of a 25-year-old TWA Boeing 747-100 in July 1996. Wiring problems are suspected to have caused the in-flight explosion. The FAA says the planned safety programme is an outgrowth of the 1997 Gore Report, which advised expansion of the ageing aircraft programme to cover non-structural systems.

The association says that little is known about the potential effects which age could have on non-structural components, including wiring harnesses, cables, pumps and actuators.

Items such as these have received scant attention in the past because "-neither the manufacturers nor the commercial airlines consider the ageing of non-structural components to pose serious safety problems, primarily because they consider their redundancy, replacement upon failure and periodic, programmed maintenance to be sufficient to assure aircraft safety," says the Gore report.

Source: Flight International