Aviation Investigation Report A98H0003

1.14.5  Risk of Remaining Airborne – Emergency Landing

Odour/smoke occurrences rarely develop into uncontrolled in-flight fires. At the time of the SR 111 occurrence, there was a diminished concern within the aviation industry about "minor" odours. There was an experience-based expectation that the source of such odours would be discovered quickly, and that actions could be taken to rapidly eliminate the problem.[64] In the operating environment at that time, operators did not have policies in place to ensure that flight crews would be expected to treat all odour and smoke events as potential serious fire threats until proven otherwise.

However, when an event that produces odour/smoke evolves into an unsuppressed in-flight fire, there is a limited amount of time to safely land the aircraft. Therefore, the decision to initiate a diversion or emergency descent or both must be made quickly to put the aircraft in a position for an emergency landing if that becomes necessary. Typically, flight crews were not required to immediately initiate a diversion to the nearest suitable airport, or to prepare the aircraft for a landing as soon as possible in the event that the situation evolves into an uncontrollable in-flight fire.

[64]    Smoke in the Cockpit Among Airline Aircraft, FAA Report, 10 December 1998.

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