Weekly Wire
Nashville Scene Questions in the Air

By Willy Stern

NOVEMBER 3, 1997:  A U.S. congressman has called for a congressional hearing on "hush kits," devices that are used to muffle airplane engine noise. The request comes in the wake of an Oct. 16, 1997, Scene story that raised serious questions about the safety of hush kits designed and sold by Nevada-based ABS Partnership.

In an Oct. 22 letter to U.S. Rep. John Duncan, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, a Democrat from Oregon and member of the House Transportation Committee's Subcommittee on Aviation, requested the hearing, saying, "This issue deserves a public hearing. Anytime there is ambiguity surrounding the safety of a critical airline component, the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] should not keep the information secret."

Quoting extensively from a study conducted by a respected aviation consultant, the Scene story reported that, in the U.S., approximately 200 DC-9s are equipped with ABS's hush kits and may be flying unsafely. Further, the story said, the FAA has tried to keep the aviation consultant's study under wraps.

In an interview last week, DeFazio said he had unsuccessfully tried to obtain a copy of the hush kit study. "My staff asked the FAA for [the report] and were told, 'No, it's proprietary.' "

In the wake of the Scene story, the FAA has opened an investigation into the possible use of counterfeit and unapproved parts in the hush kit.

An FAA spokesman said last week his agency had no safety concerns with the hush kits. But other FAA officials disagree. "Until the investigation is over, no one knows if the hush kits are safe," explained an FAA flight-safety inspector familiar with the investigation.

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