The US Federal Aviation Administration has issued a final rule that will require manufacturers of newly certificated commercial aircraft after 28 November to protect passengers and cockpit crew from the effects of explosives or incendiary devices set off in flight.

First proposed in January 2007, the rule will apply to aircraft that have a maximum certificated take-off weight of more than 45,400kg (100,000lb) or maximum passenger seating capacity for more than 60 people.

Along with ensuring that cockpit doors can handle small arms fire or fragmentation devices, manufacturers will now be required to protect the flightdeck and passenger compartment from smoke, fumes and noxious gases that could be released by an explosion.

Included as well will be the designation of a "least risk bomb location" (LRBL) inside the aircraft, a location where a device, if discovered in flight, could be placed to protect flight critical structures and systems to the maximum possible extent if it were to detonate.

Existing commercial aircraft of the same size and passenger carrying capacity must also have an LRBL designated by 28 November 2009, according to the rule.

From a design standpoint, the new rule will require manufacturers to develop redundant safety of flight systems that are physically separated or designed to allow for continued safe flight and landing in the aftermath of an explosion, says the FAA.

In combination, cabin interiors will have to be designed to make it "more difficult to conceal weapons, explosives or other such objects and easier to find such objects by a simple search".

The FAA expects the rule to cost $1.4 billion through 2061, made up of certification and manufacturing costs as well as the additional fuel burn due to the extra weight of the upgrades. The total benefit of the rule over the same time period is $2.7 billion, says the agency.

Source: Flight International