Event Details

Title:In-flight electrical fire, McDonnell Douglas MD-80, October 1, 2000
Micro summary:This McDonnell Douglas MD-80 experienced an electrical fire during cruise flight.
Event Time:2000-10-01 at 1618 CDT
File Name:2000-10-01-US.pdf
Publishing Agency:National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)
Publishing Country:USA
Report number:ATL01IA001
Site of event:Birmingham, AL
Departure:Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Atlanta, Georgia, USA
Destination:George Bush Intercontinental Airport, Houston, Texas, USA
Airplane Type(s):McDonnell Douglas DC-9-80 (MD-80)
Flight Phase:Cruise
Operator(s):Continental Airlines
Type of flight:Revenue
Serious Injuries:0
Other Injuries:0
Executive Summary:

NTSB short summary:


NTSB synopsis:

During cruise flight, at flight level 310, an MD-80, operated by Continental Airlines experienced an electrical fire. An emergency was declared and the flight was diverted into Birmingham, Alabama, and landed without further incident. The examination of the airplane disclosed a 2 by 1 1/2 inch fire-damaged hole in the left jump seat wall.

NTSB factual narrative text:

On October 1, 2000, central daylight time, a McDonnell Douglas MD-80, N69826, operated by Continental Airlines as Flight 1579, experienced an electrical fire during cruise flight at flight level 310 near Birmingham, Alabama. Flight 1579 was operated under the provisions of Title 14 CFR Part 121 as a scheduled domestic passenger flight from Atlanta, Georgia, to Houston, Texas. The flight departed Hartsfield International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia, at approximately 1720 eastern daylight time with two air transport pilots, one jump-seat rider, three flight attendants, and 141 passengers on board. The airplane sustained minor damage and the jump-seat rider received minor injuries; there were no other injuries reported. Visual weather conditions prevailed at the time of the incident, and Flight 1579 operated on an instrument flight rules flight plan.

According to the pilot, approximately 15 minutes into the flight, the cockpit filled with smoke and he heard a loud popping sound and saw sparks emitting from the jump seat area. The jump seat rider reported that he heard an explosion and leaned forward to avoid heat, which he felt on his left shoulder. When the jump seat rider looked at his left shoulder, he noticed that his shirt was burning. He extinguished the fire on his shirt, and put on his oxygen mask, since the cockpit was filled with smoke. The pilot declared and emergency and initiated a descending right turn. The flight diverted into Birmingham, Alabama, and landed without further incident.

According to the Continental Fleet Campaign Directive, (FCD), the registration certificate holder was modified on September 28, 2000. The FCD called for the holder to be modified in order to prevent loss of the certificate or damage of the certificate that would preclude dispatch of the airplane. The FCD required maintenance personnel to drill two small pilot holes just above the top of the certificate, and, in the case of mounting on a metal wall, install two screws into the pilot holes. A note is included on the FDC that allows alternate length screws to be used as required.

The examination of the airplane disclosed a 2 by 1 1/2 inch fire-damaged hole in the left jump seat wall. Several heavy gauge electrical wires were welded together on the opposite side of the wall. There were also four 50-amphere circuit breakers popped on the left circuit breaker panel behind the pilot's seat. The hole also included an area of the left edge of the registration certificate holder. The plastic cover of the registration certificate holder was melted in this area and soot damage was evident for several inches around the hole. The registration certificate holder was attached to the wall by 8 screws that extended into the cavity where the electrical fire occurred. The hole appeared to be on the left side, middle position of the certificate holder. This screw was missing; all of the seven other screws were present. The screws immediately above and below this middle position on the left side extended is approximately 0.5 inches into the cavity where the electrical fire occurred. The missing segments of wire were aligned with the center of the hole in the wall, and also with the position of the middle screw. At the point of the missing wire segments, a screw similar to that placed above and below the missing middle screw could have extended into the wiring. There is no mention in the FCD of steps that should be taken to insure that no damage is done to items on the other side of the wall either during the drilling process or by the screws themselves once they are inserted into the holes.

Corrective actions that Continental Airlines have taken are to remove all certificate holders that are on the EPC wall and to install a new 3-slot certificate holder on the galley wall, which has a honeycomb backing. According to the Engineering Authorization, the best location for the certificate holder approximately 32.5 inches from the floor, 3 inches below the lowest coat hook, and 4.5 inches in from the cockpit door.
Learning Keywords:Operations - Bang, pop, crack, sizzle!
Operations - Cabin or Cockpit Fire
Operations - Cabin or Cockpit Smoke
Operations - Maintenance
Systems - Electrical
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