Air Transport World

For cabin-fire survival. (water-spray systems for aircraft interiors) (includes related article about sprinkler system testing)

LONDON-signs are that the cabin water sprays for civilian transport aircraft will become mandatory, not just in Britain but throughout civil aviation.

Probably by the end of this year, the British Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) will produce a notice of proposed amendment (NPA), a draft outline of a change in regulations indicating the expected capability of cabin water spray systems, agreed to by the U.S. FAA, Transport Canada and the European JAA. A consultative process will follow, talking into account the views of the aviation industry. if these are strongly against, the proposal still could be dropped-but as of this writing, it seems very unlikely.

Around 12-18 months later, a rule will be introduced making it mandatory for a system to be built into afl newly designed transport aircraft, accompanied by a further amendment covering all new aircraft in build, with a third phase covering retrofit of existing fleets. Rule making, including aircraft in build, could start to take effect from mid- 1993.

This comes in the wake of a crash involving a Boeing 737-200 of British Airtours, the then-charter subsidiary of British Airways, on Aug. 22, 1985. at Manchester Airport. The aircraft was taking off with 130 passengers and six crew. As it accelerated along the runway, the left engine exploded and the head of a combustion chamber struck a fuel-tank-access panel in the lower surface of the wing, leaving a substantial hole.

Fuel escaping through the hole reached the hot engine and a major fire developed, spreading under the rear fuselage and rapidly penetrating the cabin, which filled with dense black smoke. Fifty-five people died, 48 of them through inhalation of smoke and toxic gases.

A total of 31 safety recommendations were made by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) of the U.K. Department of Transport at the end of an exhaustive, 17-month inquiry that cost $200,000 ($336,000).

Many of these recommendations, including floor-level escape-path lighting, improved access to overwing exits and hardening of cabin interiors, were made mandatory by the CAA not long after the tragedy. …

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