Wednesday, November 14, 2007

FAA History Lesson -- November 14



From the FAA Historical Chronology, 1926-1996...

”Nov 14, 1996: FAA announced its decision to issue a rulemaking proposal to require retrofit of fire detection and suppression equipment on some 2,800 older commercial aircraft that did not currently carry this equipment in inaccessible cargo compartments. This proposal, which grew out of concerns following a ValuJet crash (see May 11, 1996), was subsequently issued on Jun 10, 1997. On Dec 12, 1996, meanwhile, a group of the nation’s largest airlines announced that they would voluntarily install fire detection systems in cargo holds that lacked the equipment.“

Once again, the FAA earns it’s nickname -- The Tombstone Agency. Check out the dates very carefully. And the language -- detection vs. suppression. Here’s some language for you: Congressional Oversight.

John J. Duncan, Jr., Tennessee, Chairman
Subcommittee on Aviation

HEARING BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON AVIATION, MAY 15, 1997

”After several fires aboard aircraft and well before the ValuJet accident, the NTSB had recommended that a fire detection system be required in aircraft cargo holds. However, the FAA decided not to accept the recommendation. Instead, the FAA felt it was enough to seal the cargo holds and thereby smother any fire that might occur.

    Sealing oxygen out of the cargo hold may work to suppress a fire in most cases, but, as we now know, this is not entirely true when oxygen generators are placed in these holds.

    The FAA has now decided that smoke detectors and fire suppression systems should be placed in cargo holds. In fact, the agency issued a press release in November announcing that they would issue a rule on this, but as of this morning they have not actually issued the rule or proposed a rule, so the subcommittee is concerned about this.

    The airlines also announced last December that they would voluntarily install smoke detectors in their cargo holds, but it is my understanding that not a great deal of progress has been made on this thus far.

    So I think it is accurate to say that airline passengers have really no more protection from cargo fires than they had a year ago before the ValuJet accident. However, since we announced this hearing a few weeks ago, there has been a good deal of activity, not only in the media but at the FAA and among the airlines. “



Don Brown
November 14 2007

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