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In-Flight Entertainment Systems Safety Risks  
User currently offlineRonmacIAH From United States of America, joined Aug 2006, 52 posts, RR: 0
Posted (5 years 9 months 1 day 16 hours ago) and read 3806 times:

USA Today has a lengthy article on safety issues of aircraft with use of In-Flight Entertainment Systems. The Swiss Air 111 incident is mentioned along with "increased reports" by airline maintenance personnel of safety concerns with these systems.

With improved technology today for both aircraft and electronics, aren't these systems safer then ever before if installation and maintenance procedures are correctly followed? What's the consensus of maintenance personnel on safety issues with these systems?

The AVOD system on CAL is impressive and I look forward to using it again on an upcoming IAH-AMS flight.

[Edited 2009-03-23 05:27:54]


hey, lets be careful out there
18 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlinePlateMan From United States of America, joined May 2007, 923 posts, RR: 0
Reply 1, posted (5 years 9 months 1 day 16 hours ago) and read 3802 times:

I was just reading this very article....quite scary but very hypothetical IMO.

Anyone agree with their findings? Are there really that much of a danger or is the reporter and former FAA chief making it out to be that way?

I thought US Airways did not have IFE, yet they give an example of that jet:
•A US Airways (LCC) Airbus A320 jet en route from Philadelphia to San Juan, Puerto Rico, made an emergency landing in Bermuda on April 26 after smoke and a burning odor emanated from a passenger entertainment system box for two coach seats.

Also..prehaps it is helpful to give a more detailed title such as USAT: IFE A Safety Risk? and post to the article:
http://www.usatoday.com/travel/fligh...2-electronics-fires-airlines_N.htm

For the record, I have worked and written for USA Today in the past



"Explore. Dream. Discover." -Mark Twain
User currently offlineDavid L From United Kingdom, joined May 1999, 9541 posts, RR: 42
Reply 2, posted (5 years 9 months 1 day 16 hours ago) and read 3749 times:



Quoting RonmacIAH (Thread starter):
if installation and maintenance procedures are correctly followed

In the case of SR 111, I seem to remember that a major contributing factor was the fact that, unknown to the crew, the IFE was hooked up to the "essential" bus, so wasn't isolated during the fault-finding checks and couldn't have been isolated without losing genuinely essential systems.


User currently onlineBMI727 From United States of America, joined Feb 2009, 15831 posts, RR: 27
Reply 3, posted (5 years 9 months 1 day 14 hours ago) and read 3599 times:



Quoting David L (Reply 2):
I seem to remember that a major contributing factor was the fact that, unknown to the crew, the IFE was hooked up to the "essential" bus,

Not to mention that the fire retardant insulation wasn't. Plus, the pilots did not realize how bad the fire was and did not proceed to the airport as quickly as possible.



Why do Aerospace Engineering students have to turn things in on time?
User currently offlineDavid L From United Kingdom, joined May 1999, 9541 posts, RR: 42
Reply 4, posted (5 years 9 months 1 day 13 hours ago) and read 3550 times:



Quoting BMI727 (Reply 3):
Not to mention that the fire retardant insulation wasn't.

True, but I was only addressing the installation of the IFE.


User currently onlineBMI727 From United States of America, joined Feb 2009, 15831 posts, RR: 27
Reply 5, posted (5 years 9 months 1 day 12 hours ago) and read 3458 times:



Quoting David L (Reply 4):
True, but I was only addressing the installation of the IFE.

The point is that, like in all accidents, there are certain contributing factors that exacerbate what may be a small problem at first. The SR 111 accident does not mean that IFE systems are inherently unsafe.



Why do Aerospace Engineering students have to turn things in on time?
User currently offlineStarAC17 From Canada, joined Aug 2003, 3410 posts, RR: 9
Reply 6, posted (5 years 9 months 1 day 12 hours ago) and read 3438 times:



Quoting David L (Reply 2):
In the case of SR 111, I seem to remember that a major contributing factor was the fact that, unknown to the crew, the IFE was hooked up to the "essential" bus, so wasn't isolated during the fault-finding checks and couldn't have been isolated without losing genuinely essential systems.

That was true but the biggest thing that contributed to that crash AFAIK is that the insulation that was used is highly combustible and caused what was a containable fire to spread faster than it could be controlled.

I believe Canada's TSB said in their final report regarding that crash in 2004 that the insulation was a large safety hazard but as of 2005 a minority of planes had scrapped it.



Engineers Rule The World!!!!!
User currently offlineDavid L From United Kingdom, joined May 1999, 9541 posts, RR: 42
Reply 7, posted (5 years 9 months 15 hours ago) and read 3172 times:



Quoting BMI727 (Reply 5):



Quoting StarAC17 (Reply 6):

I quoted from the opening post for a reason, you know. That was the point I was addressing - dodgy installation of an IFE system - since that what the thread was about.  Smile

The other issues were not related to the IFE.


User currently offlineJush From Germany, joined Apr 2005, 1636 posts, RR: 3
Reply 8, posted (5 years 9 months 14 hours ago) and read 3129 times:

Well I cannot comment on frequency of this but everytime there is smoke on board my sisters aircraft the faulty part is IFE equipment.

But that's only one persons experience.

So I do not doubt that there has to be a focus on very safe IFE products.

Regds
jush



There is one problem with airbus. Though their products are engineering marvels they lack passion, completely.
User currently onlineBMI727 From United States of America, joined Feb 2009, 15831 posts, RR: 27
Reply 9, posted (5 years 9 months 14 hours ago) and read 3126 times:

To imply that the installation of an IFE system makes an aircraft inherently less safe is a gross overgeneralization. Almost any piece of equipment can pose a safety hazard if it is installed incorrectly.


Why do Aerospace Engineering students have to turn things in on time?
User currently offlineDavid L From United Kingdom, joined May 1999, 9541 posts, RR: 42
Reply 10, posted (5 years 9 months 14 hours ago) and read 3096 times:



Quoting BMI727 (Reply 9):
To imply that the installation of an IFE system makes an aircraft inherently less safe is a gross overgeneralization. Almost any piece of equipment can pose a safety hazard if it is installed incorrectly.

I'm at a loss to understand why you think I'm implying any such thing. Please re-read the opening post. You will see that it's not about fire hazards and electrical hazards in general. It's about the potential or perceived hazards relating to IFE systems, including installation and maintenance.

A specific example was mentioned and I pointed out that the way that particular system had been installed made things worse.


User currently onlineBMI727 From United States of America, joined Feb 2009, 15831 posts, RR: 27
Reply 11, posted (5 years 9 months 14 hours ago) and read 3073 times:



Quoting David L (Reply 10):
I'm at a loss to understand why you think I'm implying any such thing.

You're not. That certainly seems to be the point the article is making.



Why do Aerospace Engineering students have to turn things in on time?
User currently offlineDavid L From United Kingdom, joined May 1999, 9541 posts, RR: 42
Reply 12, posted (5 years 9 months 14 hours ago) and read 3035 times:



Quoting BMI727 (Reply 11):
You're not.

Oh... whoops! In that case, I agree with you.  biggrin 


User currently offlinePnwtraveler From Canada, joined Jun 2007, 2296 posts, RR: 12
Reply 13, posted (5 years 9 months 13 hours ago) and read 2978 times:

Kapton wiring is indeed flammable. While the TSB in Canada pointed its finger to it as a contributing factor, the cost to rewire the flying fleet was deemed too expensive to be required by the FAA and other bodies. Maybe someone can confirm whether it is banned from new aircraft or it is still in use. IIRC the US military won't let it be used on its aircraft.

Any wiring can become a fire hazzard through incorrect installation, wear on the connections, insulation being breached etc. Even dust build-up can cause overheating. An aircraft vibrating and flexing can contribute. Look at all the squawking about whether the airshow maps work on the AVOD system on AC and you see what demand there is in public for electronics on an aircraft.

The safest would be to have manual seats, the old empty tube sound plug ins, no electric seats, no personal TV's etc. However, the risk of serious problems is said to be slim and the public is demanding the products.

I had an Infiniti that would occasionally release a small puff of smoke out of the steering wheel and you would smell that burnt wire odour. They thought I was crazy at the dealership or were to lazy to check it out. Until of course all the steering wheel buttons for radio and cruise control etc. shorted out. Since it was still under warranty they had to look then and found charred wires. DUH! Heated seats in cars can also be a minor hazzard. We don't hear about these things because they tend to be minor and don't cause loss of life like the SwissAir crash.


User currently offlinePar13del From Bahamas, joined exactly 9 years ago today! , 7627 posts, RR: 8
Reply 14, posted (5 years 9 months 13 hours ago) and read 2959 times:



Quoting Pnwtraveler (Reply 13):
I had an Infiniti that would occasionally release a small puff of smoke out of the steering wheel and you would smell that burnt wire odour. They thought I was crazy at the dealership or were to lazy to check it out. Until of course all the steering wheel buttons for radio and cruise control etc. shorted out. Since it was still under warranty they had to look then and found charred wires. DUH! Heated seats in cars can also be a minor hazzard. We don't hear about these things because they tend to be minor and don't cause loss of life like the SwissAir crash.

I think this is the problem with the entire issue, only items which are deemed safe are allowed to be installed. At time during testing, issues arise and they become discussion points, whether it is economically viable to make a change and this late stage of production, how significant the issue is etc. Once in production, as your experience, something has to actually fail before concerns are addressed, the smell of smoke in and of itself - or in your case actually seeing it - is not a true measure of a problem.


User currently offlineTdscanuck From Canada, joined Jan 2006, 12709 posts, RR: 80
Reply 15, posted (5 years 9 months 5 hours ago) and read 2797 times:



Quoting Pnwtraveler (Reply 13):
While the TSB in Canada pointed its finger to it as a contributing factor, the cost to rewire the flying fleet was deemed too expensive to be required by the FAA and other bodies. Maybe someone can confirm whether it is banned from new aircraft or it is still in use.

I believe they've switched off Kapton for all current production, although I'm not 100% positive.

It's not as simple as "Kapton is flammable." Kapton is a great wiring insulation, as long as it remains physically intact. If the insulation is intact, you don't get shorts, so you don't get electrical fires, so that fact that Kapton can burn isn't as huge of an issue as it might seem...preventing ignition sources is a perfectly acceptable method of fire protection.

The problem with Kapton is aging...it gets brittle as it gets old. If you don't play with the wires, this isn't a problem. But when you start doing maintenance on old Kapton wiring, you flex it, which cracks the insulation. This opens you up to all kinds of potential shorts and *then* you get a huge problem. This is how Kapton was used for so long with a really good track record before it became the bogey man of aircraft wiring.

Note: I'm not defending Kapton, it turned out to be an unsuitable product and it's appropriate that it's being removed from the fleet. I'm just pointing out some of subtleties behind the original decision to use Kapton...it's not as clear cut as a bunch of dumb engineers not doing a flammability test.

Tom.


User currently offlineLHR777 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 16, posted (5 years 9 months 4 hours ago) and read 2742 times:



Quoting RonmacIAH (Thread starter):
The AVOD system on CAL is impressive and I look forward to using it again on an upcoming IAH-AMS flight.

When is your CO flight? IAH-AMS is currently on the 767-400ER, a non-AVOD aircraft. This does switch to a 777 soon though....


User currently offlineM11Stephen From United States of America, joined Aug 2008, 1247 posts, RR: 1
Reply 17, posted (5 years 9 months 4 hours ago) and read 2715 times:

Oy, another great shock article... Planes are filled with miles and miles of wire. Occasionally they have problems. Occasionally they short circuit or produce a burning odor. Thats why crews are trained to deal with these situations and resolve the problem quickly. Given how advanced technologically IFE systems are its a given that they're going to have problems. Galley equipment sometimes produces a burning odor, should we get rid of food and galleys too? Sometimes cockpit wiring has problems, should we get rid of cockpits too? If it wasn't safe airlines wouldn't be installing it. Right now, it doesn't seem at all like there is a safety issue at all.


My opinions, statements, etc. are my own and do not have any association with those of any employer.
User currently offlinePar13del From Bahamas, joined exactly 9 years ago today! , 7627 posts, RR: 8
Reply 18, posted (5 years 9 months 3 hours ago) and read 2649 times:



Quoting M11Stephen (Reply 17):
If it wasn't safe airlines wouldn't be installing it. Right now, it doesn't seem at all like there is a safety issue at all

Not saying it is not safe, but concerns should also not be discarded lightly, especially if coming from technical minds and persons in the know. What we never want to happen is that after a fatal accident we hear that concerns were raised but discarded without thought, sadly, our history is filled with such cases.


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