The FAA is proposing updated policies for Part 121 carriers to ensure crews understand their roles in fighting in-flight fires, as well as the equipment and procedures necessary. The new policy provides guidance on the installation of emergency equipment while also looking at crew procedures and training. The agency published an advisory circular–AC 120-80–to address the issues a decade ago.
During one reported flight-deck fire in 2010, the pilot-in-command attempted to retrieve the fire extinguisher while wearing his oxygen mask. However, the fire extinguisher was out of reach, so the pilot removed his mask and eventually extinguished the fire. After this event, some people within the industry questioned the guidance of 120-80.
The FAA’s Office of Chief Counsel reviewed the applicable regulations and determined that as long as there is a fire extinguisher located on the flight deck that is clearly marked and flight-crew members have unobstructed access to it, the fire extinguisher installation would meet the applicable Part 121 operating regulations and guidance provided in AC 20-42D. Part 121 flight decks are typically equipped with portable extinguishers, crash axes and oxygen that normally allow flight-deck fires to be contained. Some operators also use full-face masks with built-in eye protection.