Aviation Investigation Report A98H0003

2.5  In-Flight Firefighting Measures

At the time of the SR 111 occurrence, the aviation industry (manufacturers, regulators, operators, and associations) did not treat the issue of in-flight fire protection as a "system" of inter-related measures; that is, there was no requirement for an overall assessment of various fire-related defences. Such an assessment would examine the interactions between the crew, the procedures, the materials and equipment, and would take into account how the various elements could work together to prevent, detect, control, and eliminate fires. In such an approach, separate elements would be evaluated together in a harmonized manner, including material flammability standards, accessibility into hidden areas, smoke/fire detection and suppression equipment, crew emergency procedures, and training.

No major initiatives had been established to assess all components together, or to evaluate their inter-relationships with a view to developing improved, coordinated, and comprehensive firefighting measures. There was a lack of integration of the various potential measures to combat in-flight fires.

Lessons learned from accidents involving in-flight fires have resulted in various changes to flight procedures and aircraft equipment design.[115] However, the changes aimed at providing better firefighting measures have generally been made in isolation, rather than in a fully integrated and comprehensive manner. Considerable industry efforts have been made to prepare and equip aircraft crews to handle some types of in-flight fires (e.g., readily accessible passenger cabin fires). However, these efforts have fallen short of adequately preparing aircraft crews to detect, locate, access, assess, and suppress in-flight hidden fires in a rapid, coordinated, and effective manner.

[115]    For example, specific improvements were made to fire detection and suppression in lavatory and cargo areas following the 2 June 1983 accident involving an Air Canada DC-9 near Cincinnati, Ohio, and the 11 May 1996 accident involving a ValuJet DC-9 near Miami, Florida.

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