A Government Accountability Office (GAO) study released this month determined FAA has exercised sufficient oversight of new technologies to prevent smoke from entering the cockpit in commercial aircraft.
Between September 2012 and May 2013, GAO conducted a performance audit of FAA's parameters for preventing and addressing smoke entering the cockpit, mandated by the FAA Modernization and Reform Act. The audit involved interviews with FAA and NTSB officials, and representatives from industry groups such as the Air line Pilots Association (ALPA), as well as aircraft manufacturers Boeing and Airbus.
The audit determined there is currently only one technology developed to specifically prevent dense, continuous smoke in the cockpit -- the Emergency Vision Assurance System (EVAS). EVAS, which has been approved for installation on several commercial aircraft models, features an inflatable transparent unit that provides the pilot with the ability to view their panel instruments and out the windshield in the event of smoke in the cockpit.
Auditors said they agreed with FAA's decision not to mandate the EVAS system as a requirement for commercial airlines, because of the rarity of the occurrence of accidents causing smoke to enter the cockpit. Between 2002 and 2012, NTSB and FAA identified no incidents involving dense smoke in the cockpit.
Other methods of mitigating the effects of smoke in the cockpit used by FAA include FAA's existing certification standards, which require aircraft to be designed so that the evacuation of smoke from the cockpit can easily be accomplished, GAO said. The agency also requires air carriers to provide protective breathing equipment and a checklist with emergency procedures for flight crew members.
"The stakeholders we interviewed generally agreed that FAA’s oversight of protective breathing equipment, pilot training, and cockpit checklists was effective," GAO said in its report.