The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued three safety recommendations on flight crews’ ease of access to fire extinguishers while oxygen masks are donned.
These recommendations were made following the Boards investigation into an incident in which the crew of a Boeing 757 were face with a fire at the windshield heat terminal connection in the cockpit. The flight crew diverted to Washington Dulles International Airport, VA, and landed without further incident. No evacuation was conducted, and none of the 7 crewmembers or 105 passengers sustained injuries.
In addition to the factors that led to the fire, NTSB’s investigation of this incident revealed a safety issue concerning 14 CFR Part 121 flight crews’ ability to readily access fire extinguishing equipment while wearing the oxygen masks and goggles that they are instructed to don at the first indication of smoke, fire, or fumes. During postincident interviews, the flight crewmembers of the incident flight indicated that they immediately donned oxygen masks and smoke goggles in accordance with the United Airlines Boeing 757 Smoke, Fire or Fumes checklist.
The captain reported that he left his seat because the flames were in front of him and he needed to immediately reach the fire extinguisher, located on the back wall of the cockpit next to the jumpseat.
The captain stated that, as he moved toward the fire extinguisher, his oxygen mask and smoke goggles were “torn off” because he had reached the end of the hose attached to the oxygen mask. He removed the fire extinguisher, put the mask and goggles back on, and discharged the extinguisher until it was empty. The captain reported that the fire was suppressed but reignited within seconds and that, as he moved toward the cockpit door to retrieve a second extinguisher from the cabin crew, his mask and goggles came off again. He retrieved the extinguisher, put his mask and goggles back on, and discharged the extinguisher, fully extinguishing the fire.
Therefore, the National Transportation Safety Board makes the following recommendations to the Federal Aviation Administration:
Require that the length of oxygen mask hoses in the cockpits of airplanes used in 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 121 operations be increased, as necessary, to allow flight crews access to all required emergency equipment in the cockpit, as 6 well as to additional emergency equipment provided by the cabin crew via the cockpit door, while oxygen masks are donned. (A-11-79)
Amend Advisory Circular 120-80, “In-Flight Fires,” to provide clear guidance to flight crews concerning the type of breathing equipment to wear when combating a cockpit fire, taking into consideration the limitations of portable protective breathing equipment in both passenger and cargo operations. (A-11-80)
Amend Advisory Circulars 20-42D, “Hand Fire Extinguishers for Use in Aircraft”; 25-17A, “Transport Airplane Cabin Interiors Crashworthiness Handbook”; and 25-22, “Certification of Transport Airplane Mechanical Systems” to indicate that hand fire extinguishers in the cockpit must be reachable by at least one flight crewmember while wearing an oxygen mask. (A-11-81)