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What Arc Fault Breakers Do

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 0 0

Just two years after the tragic TWA flight 800 accident, Swissair Flight 111 (en route to Geneva, Switzerland from JFK International Airport) suffered a similar fate when the plane crashed into the ocean off Nova Scotia (Canada), killing all 229 people on board.

Faulty wiring within the in-flight entertainment system was implicated for the fire that ignited the plane with uncontrollable flames, which eventually led to loss of control and ended with a fatal crash. As a result of this incident, new safety requirements were developed for airplanes to prevent repetition of electrical failures.

As many of the planes in today's commercial aircraft fleet begin to age well past a decade, the miles of dense wiring found deep within their fuselages can begin to crack and fray. In fact, after just a few years in operation, a plane's wiring can begin to fray and become brittle, especially when exposed to moisture.

New technology aimed at detecting and locating faulty wiring has been in the works for years. Such technology would help prevent fatal aircraft disasters such as TWA 800 and Swissair 111. LiveWire Test Lab has created a device - known as an arc fault breaker - that can detect intermittent electrical failures in many high-noise environments, not just aircraft. The device, smaller than a thumbprint, can detect and locate a fault within an accuracy of +/- 2% over distances from just a couple of inches to hundreds of meters. This means that electrical failures (which can lead up to airplane catastrophes) can be detected before they happen, a critical element in the world of flight.

While few wiring problems on airplanes end in disaster, faulty wiring should be a cause for concern, especially as the commercial aircraft fleet continues to age. Technology such as the arc fault breaker can not only help prevent the hazardous wiring that can potentially lead to disasters, it also helps airlines save a significant amount of money. Faulty wiring is often hard to detect, let alone locate, so airlines may spend thousands of dollars in troubleshooting costs while losing money on a grounded plane. An arc fault breaker can keep airline costs down while preventing faulty wiring that is potentially hazardous. Since the airline industry is very competitive and difficult to survive in, they should be doing anything in their power to reduce their maintenance costs, as well as help lower costs for consumers to stimulate business.


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