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Safety watchdog calls for new airfreight fire rules

[ December 3, 2012   //   ]

The National Transportation Safety Board in the US recommended changes to airfreight rules following publication of its investigation of three major cargo plane fires on 28 November.

NTSB Chairwoman Deborah Hersman called for new Federal Aviation Administration rules requiring better early detection of fires inside cargo containers, development of fire-resistant containers and requiring active fire-suppression systems on all freighter aircraft.

In the three cargo fire accidents investigated, in Dubai, North Korea and Philadelphia, fires quickly grew out of control, leaving the crew with little time to get the aircraft on the ground, Hersman said. Detection, suppression and containment systems would give crews more time and options, she said. .

While existing federal regulations require cargo airline fire detection systems to alert pilots within a minute of a fire starting, the investigation found that current systems in fact took from 2 ½ to 18 minutes to work.

The NTSB added that the materials used in cargo containers made fires worse and manufacturers or regulators had paid little attention to developing fire-resistant versions.

The report also recommended improved fire suppression systems on cargo planes, echoing recommendations made in 2007 – although the FAA found it to be too expensive.

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