American Airlines Crafts New Fuel Device Designed to Save Money

American Airlines is hoping to help other airlines save money by reducing the amount of fuel carried in airplanes.

American Airlines and California-based TDG Aerospace Inc. have developed equipment that will protect the center fuel tank inside the Boeing 757, eliminating the need for the airline to carry extra fuel - and lightening the aircraft by 1,000 pounds.

The Universal Fault Interrupter, which was engineered and tested at American's Tulsa Maintenance Base, protects the center fuel tank from electrical sparks that could cause an explosion. Safety regulations require airplanes to carry extra fuel in case of emergencies and to guard against empty tanks filled with fumes that may lead to an explosion.

"You're burning fuel to carry fuel," American spokesman John Hotard said.

The extra fuel mandate is a result of the 1996 crash of TWA Flight 800, which exploded during the flight, Hotard said. The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board concluded the explosion was caused by fumes inside the plane's center tank.

Hotard said the UFI will allow airlines to fly without the extra fuel weight and without the worry of explosion. The UFI installation also will bring more work to American's maintenance, repair and overhaul division, American Airlines Maintenance Services. Hotard said the installations can and will be done at all of American's maintenance bases.

Along with the base in Tulsa, American has facilities in Kansas City, Mo., and Fort Worth, Texas.

American will install the UFIs to its own fleet of 127 Boeing 757s, Hotard said.

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