Today was a bad day for flying. American Airlines cancelled 1,000 flights, having a ripple effect on as many as 100,000 travelers. The cancellations came as a result of a mandate from the Federal Aviation Administration to inspect wire bundles in auxiliary hydraulic systems on MD-80 jets. The mandate given in September 2006 had a deadline of last month, and just a few weeks ago, Southwest, Delta, and United also had massive delays as they too inspected their wires. The fear is that the wires could rub against each other, causing a short or fire. An article today on MSNBC.com reported the FAA saying that shorted wires could ignite fuel vapors and cause a fuel-tank explosion that could destroy a plane.
It is no idle worry; the explosion of TWA 800 off Long Island in 1996 was blamed on fuel vapors ignited by wiring, but that disaster involved different wiring from the bundles, the article continued. Despite the inconvenience, and I know it was greatly inconvenient, it is good this scrutiny is taking place to ensure that air travel is safe.