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FAA Orders Fixes To Boeing Cockpit Windows

Cockpit fire

The cockpit window in this American Airlines Boeing 757 shattered because of a faulty heater over the Atlantic Ocean in Jan. 2008, spraying the flight's first officer with glass and causing heavy smoke which forced an emergency landing in Palm Beach, Fla.  Anonymous/NTSB hide caption

itoggle caption Anonymous/NTSB

After a cockpit fire forced a United Airlines Boeing 757 to make an emergency landing in May at Dulles International Airport, the Federal Aviation Administration ordered airlines to either inspect or replace windows in their Boeing airliners.

The agency issued an airworthiness directive Friday telling airlines to inspect the front-facing windows in their Boeing widebodies, their 747s, 757s and 767s. The problem is with improperly tightened screws in the heating elements that keep the windows from heating up.

There have been 11 cockpit fires related to the problem in 20 years. That doesn't sound like a lot unless you or your loved ones happened to be on one of those affected flights.

The FAA hasn't exactly moved swiftly on this issue. In its press release it says that it first proposed the airworthiness directive more than two years ago.

An excerpt from the press release:

The FAA proposed the AD in March 2008. The agency received extensive comments and determined additional 757 service information was needed from Boeing. That in-depth review identified unique issues on the upper electrical connections on 757s which will be addressed in a separate AD so as not to hold up the fix for the lower electrical connector issue which constitutes the majority of the service problems identified to date. Although there have been no fire events on 747s, the FAA plans to propose an AD this fall since those later model airplane windows are similar.

This AD affects 1,212 U.S. airplanes out of 2,619 worldwide. The estimated cost for the inspections is $103,020 total for U.S. operators. The window replacement is optional and would be an additional cost.

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