June 2006 
Volume 05, Issue 2  

The Flammability Assurance Process Change Team

The Flammability Assurance Process Change TeamOur team goal is lower cost—while continuing to meet safety requirements.

U.S. Federal Aviation Administration regulations mandate that airplanes be made from fire-resistant materials—including those carrying electric current. To guarantee flammability compliance, Boeing has been burn testing every new electronic assembly it introduces on its planes—trial by fire in a lab.

This has included a lot of new-model printed wiring circuit boards and printed wiring assemblies—plus many additional printed wiring boards and assemblies installed with each electronic upgrade of the airplane. Even though many of these new circuit boards are made of identical materials, Boeing still has had to "burn" them all in fire tests—costing as much as $10,000 or more each.

Our team collaborated with the FAA to reduce redundant burning by completing several years of extensive proof-of-concept testing and developing the associated procedures. The FAA subsequently agreed to accept a "similarity" approach for certifying the fireworthiness of specific eligible next-generation printed circuit assemblies now being designed. Establishing their fireworthiness by using data from previously tested similar circuit boards will eliminate some 500 new burn tests on the 787 in its first year alone. Additionally, this similarity process requires industry-standard materials that already include flammability testing of the individual components be used in fabrication of all printed wiring assemblies.

In five years, this system will save around $30 million for Boeing Commercial Airplanes programs—"cool" savings that will help keep Boeing competitive.

Clockwise from left

Ken Hester
Boeing Commercial Airplanes Systems Engineering

Shawn Thomas
Puget Sound Modification/Certification Engineering

George Sotolongo
Airplane Systems Safety and Airworthiness

Kenneth Young
Material & Process Technology, FAA Designated Engineering Representative/Boeing Authorized Representative – Flammability

James Peterson
Material & Process Technology, Senior Technical Fellow, Boeing Authorized Representative – Flammability

Terry McMillan
Laboratory Technician – Flammability Testing


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