CAA introduces fire safety initiative

The UK Civil Aviation Authority has launched an international research initiative to develop improved aircraft fire fighting foams that could enhance safety and increase the chance of passengers surviving a post-accident fire.Following a major aircraft accident, foams are used to extinguish and suppress fuel fires. The physical and chemical behaviour of the foam is crucial in controlling the fire.

The current foam fire standards were developed in the 1970s; however recent chemistry developments may now permit more effective foams, which would reduce the amount required to manage an aircraft fire and allow lighter and therefore more efficient fire fighting vehicles. This should result in a more successful fire fighting system and improved post-accident survivability.

The research is being undertaken on behalf of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and is initially funded by the CAA and Transport Canada. Its aim is to develop foam-testing methods and establish a reliable protocol that will allow manufacturers to supply foam that complies with an improved international regulatory standard.

Simon Webb, an airport fire specialist in the CAA’s Safety Regulation Group, said: “We strongly support this ICAO research initiative, which should lead to a new generation of fire fighting foams. This has the potential to enhance safety significantly and benefit the aviation industry and the travelling public.”

CAA Research Project Manager Graham Greene said: “There was considerable interest in the challenging targets being set and it is anticipated that a range of products will be supplied for testing from September 2008.”