US calls for stricter rules following Dubai plane crash
US authorities have called for improvements to fire detection and protection systems on cargo planes after an investigation into three accidents, including a fatal crash in Dubai in September 2010.
Aviation investigators at the US’s National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) made the recommendation following an investigation into three recent cargo plane fires.
NTSB Chairwoman Deborah Hersman said authorities should demand better early detection of fires inside cargo containers, development of fire-resistant containers and require all carriers to carry active fire-suppression systems on all freight aircraft.
The report followed two fatal plane fires in Dubai and North Korea and a third incident in Philadelphia.
"These fires quickly grew out of control, leaving the crew with little time to get the aircraft on the ground," Hersman said in a statement released with the report. "Detection, suppression and containment systems can give crews more time and more options. The current approach is not safe enough."
“In the UAE crash, the crew had just 2 ½ minutes between the fire detection and the onset of aircraft system failures,” the NTSB said.
The pilot of the UPS plane that crashed in Dubai killing two people may not have been able to steer due to a fire that caused the control cables to loosen, an interim report by Dubai’s General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) revealed last year.
Smoke from a fire reduced the pilot’s visibility as he tried to conduct an emergency landing on September 3, 2010, the report said. The pilot also struggled with low emergency oxygen before crashing into Nad Al Sheba military camp.
“The consequential effects of the fire regarding the compromised flight controls, flight crew supplemental oxygen system, the environmental control system, fire suppression and cockpit visibility are understood, however, further detailed investigation is ongoing to determine the requisite safety recommendations to address the findings,” the GCAA noted.
The GCAA’s interim investigation into the accident, which took place less than an hour after taking off Dubai International Airport, shed further light on the incident. The earlier report said the lithium batteries onboard the plane should have been declared hazardous cargo.
The Boeing 747 was carrying flammable batteries that were “distributed throughout the cargo decks” while “lithium ion battery packs” should have been singled out and handled as hazardous cargo, an April report by the aviation authority said.