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Government to require airline cargo fire detectors

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November 14, 1996
Web posted at: 9:30 p.m. EST

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The FAA has adopted new rules to require all commercial jets to have fire detection and suppression equipment in cargo compartments. The action comes six months after 110 people died when a burning DC-9 crashed into the Everglades.

The new rules would also prohibit transport of oxidizing materials in cargo holds on commercial flights, making permanent a temporary ban imposed in May after it became clear that oxygen generator canisters carried on ValuJet Flight 592 may have ignited an intense fire that burned through the cargo hold ceiling, severing control cables.

The rule change will require about 2,800 older commercial aircraft to be retrofitted, the FAA said.

"Currently, most long-range passenger planes include the detection and suppression systems in the cargo compartments," the FAA said.

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"On older planes, these compartments have been required to be virtually airtight and lined with fire containment materials," the FAA said. "However, while numerous complex issues remain outstanding, newly-concluded analysis has determined that such systems could be extended to all passenger aircraft cargo compartments."

Until the ValuJet crash, airlines were allowed to transport oxygen generators in the cargo area if treated as hazardous materials. The boxes of canisters placed on Flight 592 were not marked as hazardous and they did not have safety caps as required, investigators say.

There is a period of public notice and comment before the proposed FAA rules become effective.

National Transportation Safety Board hearings are scheduled to begin Monday into the May 11 ValuJet crash.

 
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