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Civil Aviation (Fire Safety)

Volume 173: debated on Thursday 24 May 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment his Department has made of the Civil Aviation Authority's net safety benefit analysis, particularly in relation to validity of the statistics used and the assumptions made concerning time and duration of fires.

The net safety benefit analysis is not the sole basis for the CAA's position on smoke hoods. It is the way in which the benefits and disbenefits of passenger smoke hoods can be weighed in a situation where there is a potential for loss of life due, for example, to delay in evacuation, as well as the saving of life. In the light of the inevitable lack of precise evidence as to the progress of an aircraft fire, and the time taken to evacuate in such incidents, both the CAA and the Department accept that there will always be some element of subjective assessment in work of this nature.

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will outline the process and procedures of evaluation to be undertaken (a) by his Department and/or (b) by the Civil Aviation Authority in order to measure the effectiveness of alternative smoke hood systems for aeroplanes and to certify those that meet the required performance standards.

The statutory responsibility for the safety regulation of United Kingdom civil aviation rests with the Civil Aviation Authority. The required level of passenger protection to be provided by any smoke hood is set out in CAA specification No. 20 which was developed in consultation with industry. I am advised that the authority has received our initial applications for approval of smoke hoods, now reduced to three by the withdrawal of one applicant. To date no evidence has been provided or demonstrated to the authority that any smoke hood can provide the specified level of protection in the event of an aircraft fire.

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether he will make it his policy to make smoke hood provision mandatory in civilian aeroplanes once equipment has been certified as being capable of meeting the appropriate Civil Aviation Authority standard.

The statutory responsibility for the safety regulation of United Kingdom civil aviation rests with the Civil Aviation Authority. The mandatory provision of smoke hoods on civilian aeroplanes is a matter for the authority.

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what development period he estimates will be required before he will be able to legislate for water spray systems to be fitted as standard on civil aeroplanes.

The statutory responsibility for the regulation of United Kingdom civil aviation rests with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). I am advised that the CAA, the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and Transport Canada are currently co-operating in a research programme to test the effectiveness of cabin water spray systems in civil aircraft. The CAA's research into narrow-bodied fuselage systems should be completed by later this year. FAA research into wide-bodied aircraft fuselage fires is also expected to be completed by the end of this year. If these tests prove satisfactory, work to finalise a specification for such systems can start in early 1991.