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Airlines Need to Buy Fire Protection to Fly Cargo Instead of Passengers

Airlines Need to Buy Fire Protection to Fly Cargo Instead of Passengers
Meg Butler
With passenger numbers down, airlines have been flying more cargo. And, in response, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has released new guidelines to govern flying cargo in the cabin of planes designed to fly people. Those guidelines were released on Thursday, April 16, 2020, in an FAA safety alert.
Passengers Aren’t Cargo
“It is an extraordinary situation, however, for an entire passenger cabin to be loaded with cargo,” the FAA said in the safety alert. “Passenger cabins are not designed for an all-cargo configuration.”
One major difference is the need for fire detection. It’s a greater concern with cargo than passengers. Crewmembers must be able to quickly detect and fight fires when flying cargo. To compensate, airlines must fly with “one or more” additional crew members whose job it is to sense fires and extinguish them. Currently, passenger planes don’t have fire detectors or fire suppression systems.
View Comments (8)


  1. drvannostren

    April 18, 2020 at 7:18 am

    This does make sense, but also it would depend on the type of cargo. As a ramp handler we’re made aware of dangerous goods, and that is passed on to the flight crew. If they just kept all dangerous goods and flammables below the passenger cabin, I would think that would be good enough.

  2. J S

    April 20, 2020 at 10:47 am

    Why don’t passenger planes have fire suppression equipment? I get that detection is less of an issue because passengers and crew are likely to notice a fire, but equipment to put out a fire seems like it would be useful, no?

  3. Reason077

    April 21, 2020 at 5:27 am

    @J S

    Automatic fire suppression systems would themselves be dangerous to passengers. They work by removing oxygen from the atmosphere, which will stop a fire – but also stop humans from breathing. Manual equipment, like fire extinguishers, are of course available in the passenger cabin – but they rely on crew being there to operate them.

  4. kc1174

    April 21, 2020 at 6:21 am

    The last two comments demonstrate why a carefully written article is needed at times, and not just tossed together as is the case here.
    JS – passenger planes have fire detection and extinguishing systems.
    drvannostren – you hit the nail squarely on the head which this article failed at miserably.
    Meg, could you possibly take another swing at this with a link to the FAA notice and maybe less nonsense please?
    “Currently, passenger planes don’t have fire detectors or fire suppression systems”.
    Here’s a few systems on a typical passenger 777 for example:
    1) Engine fire and overheat detection and extinguishing
    2) APU fire detection and extinguishing
    3) Cargo compartment smoke detection and extinguishing
    4) Wheelwell fire detection
    5) Wing leading edge and body duct leak overheat detection
    6) Lavatory and cabin smoke detection and extinguishing

  5. djheini

    April 21, 2020 at 6:49 am

    @J S
    They do have things like fire extinguishers in the cabin that the crew could use, but I think the article is referring to the cargo hold fire suppression systems that deploy things like halon or fire extinguishing powder, which you would not want going off in a cabin full of passengers.

  6. pmiranda

    April 21, 2020 at 6:59 am

    Plane and Pilot already did a piece on this. The cargo-only flights still have flight attendants, who are already trained to deal with onboard fires. Easy hours and no exposure to sick passengers :)

  7. cscasi

    April 21, 2020 at 9:29 am

    The agent(s) used to suppress the fire are harmful to passengers! Want to inhale the stuff they use to suppress engine fires??

  8. sddjd


    April 21, 2020 at 9:50 am

    Passenger aircraft do have suppression, but only in the holds below the passenger deck. They use (typically) halon to douse a fire, but doing so in a cabin would also cause the passengers to asphyxiate. In the cabins smoke detectors and human presence are relied on.

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