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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

NTSB: Air Cargo Planes Need Better Protection Against Fires

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued several recommendations to FAA on Wednesday, regarding the current fire protection strategy utilized by cargo airplanes.

The recommendations call for FAA to implement fire detection system performance requirements, and to require air cargo operators to install active fire suppression systems in all aircraft cargo compartments. The board also wants tougher regulations on flammability requirements for cargo container construction materials.

NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman commended the air cargo industry for implementing new fire prevention and suppression technologies, but noted that several fire-related incidents in recent years could have been prevented with a stronger approach to fire safety on cargo planes. The board has investigated three fire-related accidents involving cargo aircraft in the last six years, including two UPS planes, one that crashed in Philadelphia in 2006 and another that crashed in Dubai in 2010.

The investigators concluded that the early stages of fire burning inside a cargo container are concealed from detection, which causes the fire to become too intense once it is detectable to the aircraft crew.

“Detection, suppression and containment systems can give crews more time and more options. The current approach is not safe enough,” said Hersman. 

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