But Nationally-Known Aviation Attorney says, “It’s too little too late.”

PHILADELPHIA – (01/15/1997) What is perhaps the most appalling irony yet in the Boeing 737 air crash investigation debacle, is the announcement today by Al Gore that Boeing has agreed to modify their 737 rudder control to prevent rudder hardovers and the resulting complete lack of control of the aircraft. Nationally-known aviation attorney, Arthur Wolk, made the recommendations being discussed today five years ago.

Says Wolk, “While pronouncing an airplane that has taken hundreds of lives from this defect known to Boeing and Parker Hannifin (the rudder control system maker) for 25 years as safe, the government has made it look as though Boeing, in an interest solely motivated by public safety, has decided to make changes which are unnecessary.” “In fact,” continues Wolk, “without these changes, the Boeing 737 is a time bomb, with every flight holding the potential for a rudder hardover, a loss of control, and a crash killing all aboard.”

“It is sickening that Boeing, which has taken the position in the litigation that has arisen from the crashes of United 585 in Colorado Springs and USAir 427 in Pittsburgh that the rudder had nothing to do with either of these accidents, is now being lauded for taking steps which should have been taken when the airplane was certified in the late 1960s to prevent these accidents from happening,” says Wolk.

“Knowing of the hundreds of warnings of accidents waiting to happen in Boeing 737s over the years, Boeing and Parker Hannifin allowed two planes to crash, killing all aboard, and possibly a third, while denying that the rudder could ever cause such a calamity,” says Wolk.

Wolk concludes, “What the NTSB, the FAA and Boeing are conceding now is that the airplane’s rudder control is unsafe. What makes this announcement so appalling is that the airplane still flies every minute of every day while the government and the manufacturers know that an accident can happen at anytime. This is unprecedented in aviation history.”


It’s Déjà vu of TWA 800

An Air China Boeing 737 Next Generation airliner recently pulled up to the gate, caught fire, and moments after the passengers deplaned through emergency exits, the center fuel tank exploded and destroyed the aircraft.

Had the explosion occurred just minutes before, all 152 passengers would most likely have been killed. The TWA 800 explosion brought home a well-known fatal flaw in transport category aircraft – large fuel tanks harbor fuel vapors that can explode and kill people. The problem has been well known for 45 years. The military long ago addressed it by putting fire suppression safeguards in large aircraft fuel tanks. Nitrogen inerting of the fuel tank is the preferred method and is effective, although passing cabin air through the tanks to lean the air and purge fuel molecules is another method.

Nitrogen inerting systems are supposed to be installed in new aircraft but either the system didn’t work, the aircraft didn’t have one, or other factors that need further investigation allowed an explosion to occur. The bottom line is simple. FAA predictions that center fuel tank explosions would be unlikely, with only four predicted over the next fifty years are obviously bogus, like all other FAA predictions. Inerting the fuel tanks of all transport category airplanes is vital unless we are prepared to assume the human and economic costs of hundreds dead.

Today, new fuel tank inerting systems that manufacture their own nitrogen from air weigh only a few hundred pounds. They can be retrofitted and eliminate this problem that has already taken a thousand lives. When technology is available to prevent death in aviation, it is immoral to allow bureaucratic inaction and industry stonewalling to assume this risk flight after flight. The FAA needs to act now!

– Arthur Alan Wolk


Better look at the rudder

Yet another Boeing 737 crashes, but this time no one was killed. The flight crew masterfully rejected a takeoff that went wrong. Loud noises were heard that were reminiscent of the sounds identified just before domestic flights on United 585 and USAir 427 rolled over and dived to the ground, killing a total of 152 people in 1991 and 1994 respectively, and overseas airlines COPA 201 and SilkAir 185 crashed, taking the lives of another 151 people in 1992 and 1997.

If I were the NTSB investigator in charge, I would pull the rudder actuator and take some SEM photographs to see if the actuator bears a resemblance to the three other actuators that showed witness marks of jamming.

In my opinion, the Boeing 737 still does not have a reliably redundant rudder control system, and even after hundreds of deaths, the FAA allowed Boeing to build an entirely new generation of B-737’s with a single rudder actuator when all of its other aircraft have at least two.

Noises heard on earlier cockpit voice recorders were the death sounds of an aircraft about to go out of control. These sounds are generated by the hydraulic system telegraphing its agonizing inability to control the rudder. At speeds below 190 knots, the rudder will cause a rapid roll of the aircraft that cannot be stopped before tragedy occurs.

While redesigned after the accidents of the 1990’s, the rudder control system still has no true redundancy. If the flight crew of this aircraft sensed that they were about to lose directional control, they saved themselves and all their passengers from certain death.

The airplane is trashed and some people were hurt, but everyone will ultimately go home to their families this Christmas. Congratulations to a “heads up” Continental crew.

– Arthur Alan Wolk


The spin doctors take over

The latest from the Continental Airlines B-737 accident at Denver is the claim that a sudden gust of wind caused the aircraft to swerve off the runway. So, a pilot with 11,000 hours of flying time and a very experienced first officer couldn’t do a successful crosswind take-off in one of the simplest of all airliners? Not!!!

These same spin doctors said the B-737 accident at Colorado Springs in 1991 was caused by a sudden, theretofore never heard of, wind shear in the form of a rotor that rolled down the mountainside, followed the aircraft around the traffic pattern and rolled it over, killing 25 people.

The spin doctors were out in full force again when USAir’s B-737 rolled over and dived to the ground, killing 133 more people near Pittsburgh in 1994. Then they said that wake turbulence (a wind gust from a preceding aircraft) miles away rolled the aircraft up into a ball.

Following that, it was a faulty connection to a pilot’s altitude indicator that rolled a B-737 into the ground in Panama, though the broken wire had nothing to do with that instrument’s function, it was later learned.

Oh, and of course, it was a pilot’s suicide that caused another 737, this time in Indonesia, to roll in from altitude, killing all aboard. The co-pilot on that one was either in the lavatory or reading the paper, I guess.

Here’s the deal. The current National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is more incompetent, or politically too sensitive, than the NTSB that existed in 1991 to 1994. The government needs to throw out all the party participants like the airline, pilots’ union and manufacturers and bring back some of the investigators who reluctantly accepted my findings, and those of other experts, and concluded correctly that the rudder is the problem. While the rudder may be blameless on this one, a sudden gust of wind sure in hell wasn’t the reason for this crash either.

– Arthur Alan Wolk