Magazine article The Quill

Sigma Delta Chi Awards: Public Service: Phillips Business Information Inc

Magazine article The Quill

Sigma Delta Chi Awards: Public Service: Phillips Business Information Inc

Article excerpt

This work is about how a single tragedy is likely to fundamentally change the way fuel systems in airliners are designed. That's the way David Evans, managing editor of the Aviation Group at Phillips Business Information, describes months of coverage after the TWA Flight 800 crash.

Evans coordinates and supervises the production of eight newsletters covering all aspects of the commercial airline industry and is the principal writer for one, Air Safety Week.

"A decade hence, the TWA 800 disaster will be seen as one of those events that changed an industry-and made flying a whole lot safer," Evans said.

The coverage began in the spring of 1997 and continues. More than two dozen stories have been published in Air Safety Week.

Evans said one of the most difficult aspects of this coverage was to understand the real issue. "For months, Federal Aviation Administration officials and their allies in the industry believed that their philosophy remained fundamentally sound: to accept the presence of explosive vapors and to design out of the system all potential ignition sources," he said. "National Transportation Safety Board officials stoutly maintained this approach had not worked and that flammable vapors needed to be eliminated."

Evans said he thought he finally understood what he considered the flaw in the industry's position.

"The industry was trying to eliminate something inherently unpredictable: random sparks. The NTSB's scientists maintained that it was more straightforward to predict the temperature/pressure conditions under which flammable vapors would exist-and would not exist-and to design a fuel system to maintain the latter. Then, even if an electrical short-circuit occurred, an explosion would not result," Evans said.

Evans said his other challenge simply was to muster the energy to manage his regular duties and this unfolding story, especially during NTSB hearings early in December 1997. …

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