Washington Report: NATA Backs FAA on 135 Cargo Fire Rule

 - May 7, 2008, 5:52 AM

The FAA’s decision to withdraw proposed regulations to require fire detectors and suppression systems in cargo compartments in certain on-demand Part 135 airplanes has been praised by the National Air Transportation Association, even though it took the agency more than four years to complete safety and economic reviews.

Early last month the FAA formally withdrew regulations seeking significant modifications to all Part 121 and 135 airplane cargo compartments classified as class-D areas. The proposal was first made in June 1997.

“We appreciate the FAA’s taking the time necessary to conduct an appropriate and thorough review of Part 135 aircraft and operations,” said NATA vice president Jeb Burnside.

In formal comments submitted in 1997, NATA challenged the rule as it applied to Part 135, citing the FAA’s inability to identify a clear safety need for the modifications and stressing that the primary focus of the rule was on airline operations under Part 121. NATA also cited the absence of a proper analysis of the rule’s economic effect for on-demand operators.

Apparently agreeing with the points raised by NATA, in 1998 the FAA moved forward with the final rule for Part 121 class-D compartments, but delayed action for Part 135 until further analysis of the affected aircraft and operators was conducted. Retrofitting of the cargo areas generally would require installation of special fire detectors and a fire-suppression system in affected aircraft. The FAA recently said the cost of requiring Part 135 operators to retrofit existing class-D compartments does not result in a safety increase that would justify the rulemaking.

“NATA commends the FAA for recognizing the need to evaluate and regulate on-
demand operations separately from the airlines, and we are certainly pleased with the formal resolution of the class-D cargo compartment issue,” said Burnside.