Deadly accidents bring changes - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Deadly accidents bring changes

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"All regulation eventually gets written in blood because it takes something catastrophic to get anything done," said Russ Leighton, safety director for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters' airline division. "In this case, only two people died, and it wasn't a huge media story, so we'll probably have to wait till 300 people do die before there's any change."

Safety experts point to the 1996 ValuJet crash in the Florida Everglades that killed all 110 people aboard. The cause of the accident was a fire started by improperly shipped oxygen canisters in the cargo hold. The National Transportation Safety Board said the Federal Aviation Administration shared blame for the accident because the agency failed to implement earlier recommendations that cargo holds on passenger planes be required to have either smoke detectors or fire-suppression systems. The requirements were put in place after the crash.

Lithium batteries are "a big safety concern," said Bob Chipkevich, a former head of NTSB's hazardous materials division.  "I don't think we need to wait for a major accident with multiple fatalities to move forward."

Fire broke out four years ago in cargo containing lithium batteries and other goods on a UPS plane. The plane made an emergency landing in Philadelphia and no one was killed. The cause of the fire wasn't determined, but batteries were suspected.

Afterward, the NTSB recommended all cargo compartments on cargo-only planes have fire suppression systems. The FAA rejected that recommendation, saying it would be too expensive.

In the recent UPS accident, a fire erupted in the Boeing 747-400's main cargo compartment -- the same part of the plane as the passenger compartment on passenger-carrying planes -- within a half-hour after takeoff from Dubai. The compartment didn't have a halon gas fire suppression system. The flight's two pilots, racing to return to Dubai, radioed that smoke was so dense in the cockpit they couldn't read their instruments or change radio frequencies.

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