NTSB issues update on its investigation of Boeing 757 windshield fire

May 21, 2010

In its continuing investigation of a fire aboard a Boeing 757 that diverted to Dulles Airport (IAD) enroute to the Los Angeles International airport (LAX) from New York’s John F. Kennedy International airport (JFK), the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has developed the following factual information.

On Sunday, May 16, 2010, about 21:17 the pilots on United Airlines flight 27, a Boeing 757-222, N510UA, noted a strong acrid smell and observed smoke from the Captain’s lower front windshield.  The incident occurred about 30 minutes into the flight while the aircraft was level at 36,000 feet MSL.   On board the aircraft were 7 crew members and 105 passengers.

The Captain and First Officer reported that they donned their oxygen masks and smoke goggles immediately after observing the smoke and fire. The Captain then gave control of the airplane to the First Officer and discharged a halon fire extinguisher. The smoke and fire dissipated but then re-ignited. The Captain obtained a second bottle from the Purser.  The fire remained extinguished after this second bottle was discharged. At approximately 500 feet MSL on final approach to Runway19L at IAD, the Captain’s windshield cracked. The landing was uneventful. The airplane cleared the runway, after which ARFF (Aircraft Rescue Firefighting) entered the aircraft to check for residual heat and fire. None was found and the airplane was towed to the gate for deplaning. There were no evacuation and no injuries to the flight crew or passengers.

Preliminary examination of the cockpit area revealed that the inner pane of the Captain’s windshield had cracked. One of the five terminal blocks attached to the inside of the lower left windshield was consumed by fire and the portion of the wire harness associated with this terminal block was significantly damaged by fire. There was significant sooting and paint peeling to the left hand side of the windshield air frame support.

The Captain’s windshield was moved and will be examined by Board investigators at the manufacturer.

Two previous windshield fire events on B757-200 aircraft prompted the NTSB to issue Safety Recommendation A-07-50 http://www.ntsb.gov/recs/letters/2007/A07_49_50.pdf.  The Safety Board investigators will look closely at the recovered hardware to determine if this latest event is related.


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