Risks of injury and fatalities from post-impact fires to pilots of small aircraft highlighted as major concern

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) is urging the US Federal Aviation Administration and Transport Canada to strengthen certification and design standards for small aircraft after an investigation by the board found that occupants of small aircraft are potentially more at risk from “post-impact fires [PIF]” due to the close quarters of the cabin and the proximity of the occupants to the fuel.

“For aircraft with a maximum certified take-off weight of 5,700kg [12,570lb] or less, PIF contributes significantly to injuries and fatalities in accidents that are otherwise potentially survivable,” says the report. “The benefits of PIF-resistant fuel-system technology have been proven in land vehicle applications and recently in certified civilian helicopter applications.”

The report adds: “A requirement for similar engineering countermeasures in existing, newly manufactured and newly certified FAR 23 and equivalent small aircraft, existing small helicopters, amateur-built aircraft, and ultra-lights would reduce the incidence of fire-related serious injuries and fatalities in otherwise survivable accidents, and could significantly increase the rate of occupant survival.”

The TSB accepts, however, that design improvements on new aircraft will be considerable and even more significant on existing designs. The report says: “Enhancing current design standards will require considerable effort by Transport Canada and the FAA, and co-operation by their international counterparts to ensure harmonisation of any new standards and guidelines.”

Source: Flight International