By: Tim McCarthy
It’s hard to believe that 12 years have passed since the tragic TWA Flight 800 crash that killed all 230 of its passengers. Following the four-year investigation of the accident, the National Transportation Safety Board stated that the accident was caused by an explosion in the center wing fuel tank that most likely resulted from a short circuit outside the tank.
Because damaged wiring is extremely difficult to detect and is more common than the public is lead to believe, the National Transportation Safety Board has stated that “new technology, such as the arc fault circuit breaker and automated wire test equipment” should be incorporated into aircraft. Recently, a company by the name of LiveWire Test Labs, Inc. has made significant headway in developing an innovative arc fault circuit breaker to address this hazardous issue.
As planes age the chance for damaged wires increase as the insulation surrounding the wire can become brittle and cracked. In fact it’s not unusual for a typical aircraft to have hundreds of wires that are beginning to crack and fray. Friction between unprotected wires, maintenance wear, as well as moisture buildup can all be hazardous to delicate wiring and result in accidents. However, it isn’t just aging aircrafts that are susceptible to damaged wiring. Research has shown that nearly 1/3 of all planes will have wiring faults within the first year. In addition to the TWA Flight 800, it is believed that faulty wiring was also the cause behind the downing of the Swissair 111 near Nova Scotia.
Now, by monitoring changes in live electrical circuits, Live Wire has created an instrument that detects faulty wiring in real time and then locates (within an accuracy of +/- 2%) the location of the fault after the arc fault circuit breaker gets tripped. Since most aircraft carriers have hundreds of meters of wiring, current repairs can take days, even weeks, to troubleshoot. LiveWire’s technology eliminates much of the guesswork, which could enable planes to spend more time in the air, and less time on the ground.
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