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Special Event

Boeing Holds News Conference on 737 Rudder Design Enhancements

Aired September 14, 2000 - 2:37 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: If you have flown a lot, you have flown on a Boeing 737. And makers now of that plane have agreed to redesign the rudders on the aircraft. The 737 is the world's most widely used airliner. There are currently more than 3,000 of them in service. The planes are considered safe, but rudder problems are suspected in two deadly crashes.

Right now, Boeing engineer Allen Bailey is discussing the redesign plans at a news conference in Washington. Let's listen to a bit of this.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

ALLEN BAILEY, BOEING ENGINEER: ... for the recommendations of the NTSB in conjunction with the FAA, we have incorporated fixes into the fleet. Those have already been done that address what was considered to be the most probable cause of those accidents.

And so what we're talking about today is an enhancement above and beyond that. It's what we, Boeing, are going to go forward with to ensure the safety of this airplane, for the flying of this airplane fleet for the next 20 or 30 years.

The enhancements take on three areas. First of all -- and what will happen the soonest -- is we are making a very simplified change to the flight crew procedure. There's a flight crew procedure on a 737 that's gotten a lot of recognition around the world. Through study that we've done, through efforts by the FAA, through efforts by the FAA study team, by airline industry pilots that have been here, we have developed a much simplified procedure for the crews to use in case there is an emergency in a cockpit.

And so that's the first element of the enhanced safety that we're going to do, and it's the first element that we will implement very, very shortly. That procedure has been tested here at Boeing by 10 commercial crews that have come in from various airlines. They have tested that procedure, they have made recommendations for change. And so the entire industry is very happy with and believing that this new procedure will be an enhancement to the crews so that they can react accordingly if, in fact, there's an emergency in the cockpit.

The second element that we are going to go forward with is a maintenance procedure enhancement. We are doing that -- and quite simply what that is, we are going to go back and look at the maintenance procedures we currently use on a classic fleet and compare those maintenance procedures to the maintenance procedures that were developed as we designed and certified the next generation.

We're going to compare those two maintenance procedures. And where appropriate, and where we have enhanced the maintenance procedure to ensure reliability for the classic -- for the next generation airplane, we're going to bring the procedures up to that level for the classic. That work is ongoing right now. We will do that again in conjunction with ourselves and with FAA. We are following all the process, we'll have our customers involved, and those new procedures should be available to the industry by roughly the first quarter of 2001.

The third enhancement that we're going to make is we are going to make a design improvement to the system. We'll show you some details of that design improvement. And we are doing that in an effort to absolutely ensure the reliability and to ensure the redundancy and the safety of the airplane.

So, you know, when you talk about safety and when you talk about airplanes operating, there's really a three-legged stool that the industry has to ensure safety: design, maintenance practices, and flight crew procedures and operation procedures. We are making enhancements in each one of those areas to ensure reliability and ensure redundancy in the 737 fleet.

Now, let me say it, if we could run the video, what I would like to do right now is just briefly show you -- we have a video here and I will try to describe what we're going to do.

What you're seeing on the screen right now is a -- as soon as it gets started -- it's a video that will show the old system. Here's the airplane, zooming in on the rudders and the front, general rotor movement, to aft quadrant to the airplane. Now we're looking at the aft quadrant of the airplane.

Now, you see the existing -- could you stop it right there, please?

What you're seeing is a technical, accurate description of the current system. The lower unit is the main PCU and the upper unit is a standby PCU, and you see the two drive input arms.

Could you continue now, please?

OK, so you can see the movement. Pilots push on the pedal -- controls pedal, now you see the animation where we're going to remove those units and replace them with the new PCU, new drive arms, the pogos (ph). OK, and so you have movement.

Now, could we probably run through this again and I want to explain in detail what we're going to do.

WATERS: All right, Boeing engineer Allen Bailey describing the three enhancements Boeing plans for its widely popular and eminently safe Boeing 737s with the exception of a couple crashes where a rudder problem may have been the cause of the crash. The enhancement includes a simplified procedure for the crews for handling cockpit emergencies, upgrading the maintenance procedures to bring it in line with the new design improvements to the system that you just saw there on the screen. The rudder system will be in place. And all this has until 2008 for completion. According to Mr. Bailey, this is to ensure the safety of the Boeing 737 for the next 20 to 30 years of flying.

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