Following three in-flight fires on transport aircraft over the past six years, two of which cost four pilots their lives, the NTSB recommended last week that the FAA improve fire-protection regulations. “These recommendations involve improving early detection of fires originating within cargo containers and pallets,” the Board said in its letter to the FAA.
The NTSB wants the FAA to require cargo carriers to “develop fire-detection performance requirements for the early detection of fires originating within cargo containers and pallets and require the installation and use of active fire suppression systems in all aircraft cargo compartments or containers, or both, such that fires are not allowed to develop.”
Another NTSB focus is “developing materials standards for cargo containers to provide better fire resistance, as well as requiring active fire-suppression systems inside all cargo compartments or containers, or both.”
NTSB research showed fires that begin inside cargo containers can quickly become unmanageable by the time they burn through the containers enough to be detected by on-board equipment. Test fire burn data revealed many examples of fires that exceeded the one-minute limit currently in place for on-board detection. In one example, a fire took more than 18 minutes to set off an alarm.