Airline passengers will soon have dramatically improved post-accident fire-protection if an Airbus Industrie-led group of European companies can win a European Commission (EC) research grant. Research has already established that the use of different cabin-insulation materials at manufacture could increase tenfold the time it takes for external fire to burn through to the cabin, providing more evacuation time.

The research followed the British Airtours Boeing 737-200 take-off abort on 22 August,1985, at Manchester, UK, after an uncontained engine failure. The incident resulted in the death of 55 people from noxious-fumes poisoning when the external fire burned through into the cabin.

Research commissioned by the UK Civil Aviation Authority (and also by the US Federal Aviation Administration) has revealed that the use of polyimide covering and Orcon FB-300 fibre in the thermal/ acoustic insulation between the fuselage skin and cabin wall can increase the time taken for fuselage burn-through between two- and tenfold, with a minimal effect on materials costs.

Now, says Nick Povey, head of the CAA's Safety Regulation Group Change Team, it is up to industry to research the implementation. At the UK Royal Aeronautical Society's Cabin Safety Conference on 20-21 March, he revealed that a team including Airbus, German organisations Dasa Aerospace Airbus and DLR, French companies Aerospatiale and SEAT, the UK-based Faverdale Technology Centre and the CAA, and the Dutch Delft University have bid for EC research funding. The EC says that it is "working on" the issue.

Source: Flight International