FAA Moving To Retain Jumbo Jet Emergency Exits
H. JOSEF HEBERT
May. 23, 1986
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Federal Aviation Administration plans to draft a regulation aimed at preventing the elimination of two emergency exit doors on the Boeing 747 jumbo jet, FAA Administrator Donald Engen told Boeing officials.
The proposed elimination of the two over-the-wing doors on the jumbo jet caused an uproar among aviation safety advocates and the Association of Flight Attendants last year.
Several members of Congress strongly criticized the proposal, and Engen wrote chief executives of U.S. airlines saying such a change would decrease the margin of safety.
Engen reiterated his opposition to the door change in a letter to Dean Thornton, president of the Boeing Commercial Airplane Co. He also told Thornton the FAA plans to draft a regulation limiting the distance between aircraft emergency exits to 60 feet.
If the two over-the-wing doors are sealed on the Boeing 747 the distance between some of the remaining doors would be 72 feet.
Boeing received permission to reduce the number of exit doors from 10 to eight from an FAA regional office two years ago after arguing that although fewer doors are available the FAA's evacuation requirements still can be met.
Several foreign airlines, including British Airways, already have reduced the number of doors on some of their Boeing 747s, but no U.S. airlines followed suit after Engen's criticism last year.
It's not immediately known what affect the FAA regulations might have on the foreign airlines that already have sealed the two doors.
Matthew Finucane, safety director for the Association of Flight Attendants, said Engen's letter to Thornton, which was made public Thursday, ''appears to be the final word on this subject'' for U.S. carriers.
The jumbo jets have had 10 emergency exit doors since the planes were introduced in the early 1970s. But Boeing has argued that the federal requirement is two doors for every 110 passengers as long as all passenger can be evacuated within 90 seconds.
Since no Boeing 747 flown by U.S. airlines has more than 440 seats it needs only eight doors, the Seattle-based manufacturer argued. Earlier this year Boeing conducted an evacuation test, using a 747 with eight doors, and met the FAA's 90-second requirement.