Smoke Detectors and Fire Suppression in Cargo holds of Commercial Aircraft

Monday, March 19, 2001, the FAA kept their word to NADA/F that commercial airplanes in the U.S. would be equipped with smoke detectors and fire suppression equipment in the cargo holds, or the planes would be “parked.”

Three years previously, on February 12, 1998, an FAA Press Release announced that the FAA was ordering Fire Detection and Suppression Systems to be Installed in Commercial Aircraft Cargo Compartments. The FAA action was a result of ValuJet, where 110 wonderful people died on May 11, 1996.

The FAA stated that the airlines would be filing quarterly reports on the status of the retrofits. Historically it seems that the airlines have been granted extensions and exemptions for work such as this.

NADA/F filed the Freedom of Information request to obtain copies of the quarterly reports. We also pushed the FAA to make the quarterly reports available on their website, which reflected which airlines were completing the work in a timely manner. These were considered complex charts showing each airline and each type of equipment, however, the FAA agreed to the NADA/F request and provided the information on the Internet. For three years NADA/F followed the progress of smoke detector installation every step of the way, and encouraged aviation journalists to do so as well.

Success! On March 20, 2001, 3,154 of the 3,483 planes in the U.S. were converted on schedule, and 264 were grounded until the maintenance was completed. Also, on March 20th, 65 older jets that were not converted were grounded and faced probable retirement.

Yes, NADA/F made a difference, but we won’t stop there. We want to build on this success for NADA/F and the traveling public. We will continue to push for on time compliance with Airworthiness Directives, and for a speedier time line for air safety work.