NTSB Safety Recommendation – Inflight Cargo Fires

On November 28, 2012, the US National Transportation Safety Board has issued a Safety Recommendation, containing 3 specific areas they wish the FAA to review and implement changes for, one of which is titled.

Icone PDFNTSB Safety Recomendation Inflight Cargo Fires

This report has received considerable attention in the media and of course the combination of aviation and fire gives much material for dramatic reporting.

What is important at this stage is to recognize that:

  • This NTSB report specifically addresses “Cargo fires aboard cargo airplanes” which is a very different matter from “any fire on any aircraft”.
  • The report addresses the issue where cargo compartments of freighter aircraft are not, in general, equipped with either fire suppression systems (Halon) or with fire proof hold liners. Therefore, the job of containing a fire would rely far more on the individual ULD loads rather than on a hold based system.
  • Lower deck compartments are almost totally equipped with both suppression (Halon) and containment (fireproof hold liners). Unfortunately the report itself, and of course the press reports, do not differentiate between these 2 very different situations.
  • This is a very high level overview of the issue, and takes a very broad approach. Even the unit shown burning in Fig 1 and defined as a polypropylene container is in fact a pallet and net with a polypropylene “load former” (also known as a collapsible container) under the net, a very different piece of equipment from a certified structural cargo container that has met the requirements of NAS3610.

At this early stage we can indeed expect the relevant authorities will be taking this matter seriously and ULD CARE will endeavor to keep its members accurately informed of developments as they occur. 

It is important to stress that ULD CARE will at all times promote safety in air cargo operations.

For those who would like to read the reports issued by the various news services, you can follow the links provided below: