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Research on Airline Terrorism Includes Bombing Old Bombers

January 24, 1992

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) _ Ten obsolete B-52 bombers will be bombed from the inside to help the government learn how airliners may be built to withstand terrorists’ explosives.

″It’s all part of the hardening program,″ said Ken Hacker of the Federal Aviation Administration technical center in Atlantic City, N.J.

The FAA research aims to avoid repeats of the kind of attack that exploded a Pan Am jet over Lockerbie, Scotland, in December 1988, killing all 259 people aboard and 11 more on the ground.

In the tests, tentatively set for next month, small explosive charges will be used on 10 obsolete and stripped B-52s facing the scrap heap at Davis- Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson.

Researchers will measure effects of the explosions on the planes’ components, including hydraulic and fuel lines and electronic equipment, said Hacker, who is program manager of the FAA’s Aviation Security Research and Development Service.

The Flight Dynamics Division at Wright-Patterson Air Force Bases in Ohio has been studying whether such components are a vulnerable spot in a bomb blast that doesn’t break the plane apart.

In such cases, however, if the electronic gear is destroyed and flight cables blown apart, ″we’d still probably have a plane that we’d lose,″ Hacker said. How long such aircraft can fly before crashing is unknown.

Most terrorist bombings also cause structural damage, however, Hacker said.

The test explosions probably will leave the planes’ structures intact. ″If you were to watch the explosions from outside, you likely wouldn’t see any damage,″ he said in a recent interview.

That’s just as well.

A yet-unratified treaty of the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks would require the bombers to be disposed of by slicing them up with a huge guillotine-like device. The planes are among some 350 B-52s marked for destruction.

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