The US Federal Aviation Administration appears to have won an airline undertaking to fit reinforced cockpit doors on all aircraft by April despite claims the deadline was unrealistic.

The FAA says it has received commitments from manufacturers, airlines and repair stations ensuring that all transport-category aircraft operating into the USA will be equipped with reinforced doors, designed to prevent intrusion by hijackers or terrorists, by the congressionally mandated deadline.

Much of the certification for the new doors has still to be completed, and the FAA admits that September and October "will be critical". The US agency says finding a design that fulfils the new security requirements while still meeting decompression safety standards has been much more difficult than originally thought. Certification has been slower than envisioned, prompting fears by foreign carriers that the deadline was untenable.

To date, the FAA has approved door designs for four types - Airbus A320 family, Boeing 737s, Boeing 757s, and McDonnell Douglas DC-9s/Boeing MD-80s. In addition, Boeing 747-400s operated by United Airlines have a certificated door, but no other 747s are yet approved.

The FAA says the approvals cover door designs for about 60% of the worldwide aircraft fleet. Certifications will continue through September and October - including for regional jets - so that kits can be shipped to all airlines by year-end.

But installation itself is proving an expensive and lengthy process in some cases. On some types, the FAA says, a new cockpit bulkhead is required because of the heavier door and in some cases the forward lavatory door has to be replaced because of the decompression airflow. That has put a question mark over the economic viability of installations on some types, the FAA says.

The FAA and US Transportation Security Administration are still examining what to do about smaller regional aircraft, some of which currently have no cockpit bulkheads or doors.

Source: Flight International