Engineering Disaster of TWA Flight 800 Essay

This essay has a total of 4378 words and 29 pages.


Engineering Disaster of TWA Flight 800





TABLE OF CONTENT
SUMMARY I
1.0 INTRODUCTION 1
2.0 BACKGROUND 1
2.1 FLIGHT PATH 1
2.2 NTSB INVESTIGATION 1
2.3 SEQUENCE OF BRAKEUP 2
3.0 SOURCES OF IGNITION 3
3.1 JET FUEL FLAMMABILITY 4
3.1.1 FUEL CHARACTERISTICS 4
3.1.2 FUEL FLAMMABILITY IN TWA 800 4
3.2 ELECTRICAL COMPONENT FAILURES 5
4.0 SOLUTIONS 6
4.1 NITROGEN INERTING 6
4.1.1 C-17 OBIGGS NITROGEN INERTING SYSTEM 6
4.2 SAFETY FOAM 7
4.3 JET FUEL ALTERNATIVE 7
4.4 VENTED AIR GAPS AND INSULATION 7
5.0 CONCLUSION 8
6.0 RECOMMENDATIONS 8
REFERENCES 9
APPENDIX A 10
APPENDIX B 11

SUMMARY

On the 17th of July, 1996, 13 minutes in it’s flight, Trans World Airlines Flight
800 (TWA 800) crashed into the Atlantic Ocean. The investigation by the National
Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) shows that the aircraft exploded within the Central
Wing Fuel Tank (CWT).


Unfortunately, NTSB was unable to locate the source of ignition, but several theories of
explosion where explained within this report. These theories include probability of the
fuel flammability within the conditions before the aircraft’s explosion and the
Failures of the electrical components


The solutions to the explosion theories include Nitrogen inerting, Jet fuel alternative,
installation of foams and vented air gaps.


The report recommends using the JP-5 fuel alternative instead of Jet A (fuel used in
TWA800). This option was more favourable than the other solutions to the constraints of
Boeing’s time and budget.


1.0 INTRODUCTION

Boeing Ltd. has initiated a project that will improve the design aircraft. This design
will provide a safer and more comfortable flight. In conjunction with this project,
Batchelor Consultancy Pty. Ltd. has been commissioned by Boeing Ltd. to examine the reason
and of failure of Trans World Airlines Flight 800 (TWA 800) and provide suitable
recommendation to increase the safety of future flights of Boeing. This report will cover
all the requirements that are stated in the Safety Modification Legislation AIR142.


The matters to be considered while writing the report will include:

 Review the circumstances surrounding the accident to establish the probable cause/s of the accident.
 Provide the best recommendation that will increase the maximum safety to
Boeing’s customer as well as their employees. Recommendations should also take into
considerations the cost and time of conducting the stated recommendations.

2.0 BACKGROUND
2.1 FLIGHT PATH

On July 17, 1996, about 8:19 p.m. eastern US time, a Boeing 747-131, operated as Trans
World Airlines Flight 800 (TWA 800) took off and was bound for Charles De Gaulle
International Airport (Paris, France). TWA 800 was heading northeasterly, roughly
paralleled the southeastern coastline of Long Island (Phillips, 1996, p27).


The weather at John F. Kennedy International Airport was clear with 25 mi. Visibility,
temperature was 71F and winds from the southwest at 4 kt.


At about 8:28 p.m., when the aircraft at an altitude of 10,000 ft. the aircraft
accelerated from 250 kt. To 300 kt. which indicated the airspeed was for the en route
climb segment. After 13 minutes into the flight, air controllers lost radar contact with
the Boeing 747-131. The Center Wing Tank (CWT) had exploded eight miles south of East
Moriches, New York, at an altitude of 13,700 ft.


2.2 NTSB Investigation

After the explosion, NTSB was commissioned by the U.S. government to investigate into the
cause of the explosion and recommend the Federal Aviation Administration to develop and
implement designs or operational changes to increase the safety of transport category
aircraft. During the NTSB’s investigation, Seven main types of evidences where used
to find the cause of the explosion. These include (NTSB hearing summary 1997):


 Radar - The short flight of TWA800 was tracked by radar from two stations. The
radar also recorded the trajectory path of the numerous pieces of the aircraft’s
wreckage.

 Cockpit Voice recorder (CVR) – The device, which records the voice from the
cockpit, captured a high energy signal that was consistent with an explosion in the fuel
tank, whose sound was transmitted to the cockpit area microphone.

 Flight data recorder (FDR) – The device records 18 aspects of the flight, such as altitude and heading.
 Witnesses to the Explosion – 200 witnesses that were likely to have spotted
the burning aircraft after it had begun to break up.

 Reconstruction of the debris - Portion of the airplane have been reconstructed,
including the CWT, the passenger cabin above the CWT, and the air conditioning packs and
associated ducting beneath the CWT. The reconstruction shows outward deformation of the
CWT walls and deformation of the internal components of the tank that are consistent with
an explosion originating within the tank. A close scientific examination and analysis of
almost 200 holes, slits, punctures and penetrations.

 Aircraft Engineers.
 Flight and miscellaneous tests – Cooling of the air conditioning pack bay
and temperature of fuel tanks are measured in flights similar to that of TWA800.


In July 1997, a hearing of the NTSB’s investigation was conducted (NTSB hearing
summary 1997). NTSB officials provided vital information regarding the flight path and
the sequence of the aircraft’s explosion. The NTSB showed and concluded that the
aircraft had an explosion came from around the Center Wing Fuel Tank (CWT), but was unable
to find the source of ignition that caused the explosion. They also proved that TWA
flight 800 was not downed by a missile or by a bomb explosion.

2.3 SEQUENCE OF BRAKEUP

According to the NTSB’s investigators (NTSB hearing summary 1997), the explosion of
TWA 800 was divided into three-stage sequence. The explosion was the first stage. The
stage shows that the explosion released wreckage from in and around the center fuel tank.
Secondly, the separation of the forward fuselage from the rest of the aircraft. Finally,
the continuing flight and eventual breakup and descent of the remainder of the aircraft.


Based on the reconstruction of the debris (McKenna, 1997, p32), NTSB investigators said
they believe the force of the explosion in the Center Wing Fuel Tank (CWT) pushed the No.3
spanwise beam, which forms the front wall of the tank, into the front spar ahead of it
(see figure 1). The front spar broke free of the wing’s upper skin and rotated down
into the forward cargo bay.


Cracks propagated from the sides of the spar into the pressure bulkhead below it, then
into the aircraft’s belly skin. The skin cracked forward longitudinally for about
200in, then each crack turned in toward the aircraft centerline until they intersected.


























Figure 1 The Center Wing Fuel Tank Area (source: Dornheim, 1997, p56)

The 747’s wing rear spar forms the aft wall of the center tank. Three span-wise
beams pass laterally through the tank. The No. 1 of these span-wise beams is between the
rear spar and the wing’s mid-spar. Ahead of the mid-spar are the No. 2 and No. 3 s

span-wise beams, the latter forming the front wall of the tank. Between the No. 3
span-wise beam and the front spar is the dry spar, which contains no fuel.


With the skin and some stringers and frames fractured, this belly skin was pushed down
into the slipstream by cabin pressurisation and perhaps the overpressure from the center
tank blast. It then tore free, taking with it a 13.5-ft long section of the
aircraft’s keel beam. The skin to the right and left of the belly section then
peeled back and free of the aircraft. About four seconds after the blast, a 70-ft section
of the aircraft, from just in front of the tank to the nose, rotated to the right and
down, then tore free.


The rear fuselage, wings attached, are likely rolled about 50 degrees to the left and
continued climbing, then rolled right until it was inverted and in a dive.


Compression-buckling on the upper skin of the center wing tank and tension failures on the
bottom skin indicate the wings failed upward, with the left wing breaking free and the
right remaining attached to a large section of the center fuselage. The intact mid-spar
and rear spar were strong enough to hold the wing together until the aircraft was well
into the dive.


After about 50 to 90 seconds succeeding the explosion, most of the debris, resulting from
the explosion, were in the water.

3.0 SOURCES OF IGNITION

Due to the inability of the NTSB investigators to find the source of the ignition in the
CWT and exploded TWA flight 800, several theories have been put forward by NTSB and the
aircraft industries. These theories include the jet fuel flammability and the failure of
some electrical components onboard of TWA 800.



3.1 JET FUEL FLAMMABILITY

3.1.1 FUEL CHARACTERISTICS

The characteristics of Jet Fuel provide us with an understanding of how the temperature
and conditions surrounding may effect the CWT explosion of TWA flight 800. The main terms
used to describe jet fuels characteristics include (DornHeim, 1997, p62):


 Fuel/air ratio, which is the volumetric ratio of fuel vapors to air.
 Lower flammability limit (LFL). This is the minimum fuel/air ratio required for a flame to spread.
 Upper flammability limit (UFL), which is the maximum fuel/air ratio that sustains flame propagation.
 Flash point. The lowest temperatures of a liquid when a test flame will cause
vapors near he surface to momentarily ignite, or flash.

 Autoignition temperature. This is the lowest temperature of a vessel at which
injected fuel vapor will spontaneously ignite.


The kerosene-type Jet A (DornHeim, 1997, p57), the fuel that was used in TWA flight 800,
have a flash point above 100 F. They have low vapor pressure and are popularly thought to
be hard to ignite, but research decades ago showed the fumes could be ignited well below
the flash point. The specification of Jet A includes a 100F minimum flash point. The
autoignition temperature is not specified but is around 450F.


As stated by DornHeim (1997), the LFL drops as altitude increases because the lower air
pressure makes the mixture richer. During a climb, the fuel will become more flammable.
Also, oxygen dissolved in the fuel comes out of solution before other gases, causing
oxygen enrichment of the ullage, which increases ignitability.


3.1.2 FUEL FLAMMABILITY IN TWA 800

NTSB researchers briefed investigators on preliminary test results that Jet A (the fuel
type used by TWA800) fuel is far more flammable than aircraft manufacturers and operators
had previously believed particularly when it is heated to high temperatures (McKenna,
15/12/97,P32). A spokesman from California Institute of Technology (CalTech) said his
tests indicated that roughly 50F increase in the temperature of Jet A can drop the minimum
temperature required to ignite its vapors by a factor of three.


NTSB officials said flight tests conducted in July 1997 indicated that the temperature
inside the center fuel tank of TWA 800 may have been as high as 128F. Earlier, safety
board research had indicated that the temperature in the tank was less then 96F. The data
collected from the flight test combined with the CalTech research, would seem to indicate
that the risk of explosion in the tank was substantially higher than conventional industry
thinking would indicate.


Before the disastrous flight of TWA 800, all three air conditioning packs were operated on
the ground for about 2 hours to generate heat beneath the CWT (Daschle, 1996, p4). In the
flight tests, the fuel-air mixture in the CWT ullage was stabilised at a temperature below
the LEL on the ground. However, as the aircraft climbed, the atmospheric pressure
decreased (the LEL decreases with decreasing atmospheric pressure) reducing the LEL
temperature and allowing an explosive fuel-air mixture to exist in the tank ullage.


3.2 ELECTRICAL COMPONENT FAILURES

NTSB research has uncovered minor failures and degradations of electrical hardware that
has led some participants in the accident investigation to question whether more should be
done to identify, track and correct such problems in aircraft systems.


As pointed out in the NTSB hearing, the failures of electrical components could include
the following (NTSB hearing summary 1997):


 A possible short circuit to the fuel quantity indication system (FQIS) wiring,
outside the fuel tank, combined with latent failures not apparent during operation of the
plane, or copper sulfide deposits on FQIS components in the fuel tank.


 Energy induced into the FQIS combined with latent failures, foreign materials or
copper sulfide deposits in the fuel tank.


 Damage to wiring above the forward cargo compartment. In the flight of a
different aircraft, unrelated to the accident investigation has found that a cargo
container may have struck the wiring in this area and created a short circuit. In
wreckage recovered from the accident aircraft, a portion of that wring is missing.


 Possible short-circuit in other parts of FQIS wiring, some of which has not been recovered from flight 800.

 Short circuits in the power cable that could have ignited the fuel vapors in the
partially filled center fuel tank.


4.0 SOLUTIONS
Continues for 15 more pages >>




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