UPDATE: The FAA has challenged the wording of this post. See the third paragraph below.
THE ORIGINAL: Over the years I've followed airlines and aviation safety, the Federal Aviation Administration has repeatedly shown an unfortunate, no make that scary and at times unconscionable, lack of urgency about long-identified safety issues. Here's yet another one. It seems that the windows in some Boeing jets occasionally catch fire because of overheated wires. FAA has known about the problem since 2002.
No one's died yet, but one full load of passengers enroute to PHL from San Juan, P.R., in 2008 on an American 757 thought they might when the wiring overheated and smoke filled the cockpit. As the jet approached Palm Beach, Fla., for an emergency landing, passengers were told to prepare to wind up in the ocean or for a rough landing. Read a good AP story about the FAA's laggardly ways here.
UPDATE July 1: FAA spokesman Les Dorr took issue with saying the FAA had "laggardly ways" in this case. He indicated that Boeing did not take the first step in the process of trying to fix the problem, issuing a "service bulletin" to airlines alerting them to it, until 2007. Here's Dorr's e-mailed response to me:
"We responded positively to the NTSB's recommendation by proposing safety actions in March, 2008. There were extensive comments on the proposal, many of which questioned the suggested approach to the safety issues. Developing responses to those comments (as required by law), making sure we have the right fix for the problem, and obtaining additional technical information from Boeing, has taken significant time and effort. We expect to issue a final directive in July."
I'm glad the agency has taken the steps it has.