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For Release: September 30, 2002

Katherine K. Martin
Media Relations Office

Lori J. Rachul
Media Relations Office

Studies Aim to Reduce Airplane Fuel Flammability

NASA is developing technology to help prevent airliner fuel tank fires with the help of four contracts awarded by NASA's Glenn Research Center, Cleveland.

The four contracts, totaling approximately $400,000, have been awarded to Creare Engineering, Inc., Hanover, N.H.; Essex Cryogenics Inc., St. Louis; Honeywell Environmental Controls Systems, Torrance, Calif.; and Valcor Engineering, Springfield, N.J.

"The companies will study how to reduce flammability in fuel tanks by replacing oxygen with a gas that won't support combustion," said Clarence Chang, manager of the Fire Prevention Element of Glenn's Accident Mitigation Project. "The purpose is to prevent the kind of explosion that in recent years brought down TWA 800 and destroyed two other airliners at overseas locations."

Phase I of the contracts, lasting five months, is a study and feasibility determination of improved On-Board Inert Gas Generation System and On-Board Oxygen Generation System (OBIGGS/OBOGS) methods and the design of demonstration systems. Actual hardware fabrication and testing of the hardware is the ultimate goal of the program, which would occur during Phase II, if success is achieved in Phase I.

Specifically, OBIGGS/OBOGS is in response to the National Safety Transportation Safety Board's recommendations, resulting from recent fatal center wing fuel tank explosions. The technology developed is intended to reduce the flammability and chance for explosion of an airplane's center wing tank, which is located under the passenger cabin inside the wings.

The Accident Mitigation Project is part of NASA's Aviation Safety Program, managed by NASA's Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va. This project is working with the Federal Aviation Administration to develop technologies that will increase aviation safety. Those technologies include on-board equipment for use during ground and flight operations to lower the flammability of center wing fuel tank vapors.

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