Air safety call

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The Independent Online
A formal public hearing into the crash of TWA flight 800 opened yesterday in Baltimore with a call for new safety standards to ensure that flammable vapours are cleared from aircraft fuel tanks.

The call came from Jim Hall, chairman of the US transport safety watchdog, the National Transportation Safety Board, who argued that clearing potentially dangerous vapours was even more important than determining precisely what sparked the explosion that is believed to have caused the disaster.

The Paris-bound plane, a Boeing 747, exploded 12 minutes after take-off from Kennedy Airport, New York, in the evening of 17 July 1996. All 230 people on board died. Although most of the wreckage has been recovered, the exact cause of the crash has still not been established, although sabotage has been ruled out.