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The Boeing website states that smoke detection devices are not present in the passenger cabin as the passengers/cabin crew are able to detect the smoke:

A dedicated smoke detection system is not required in the occupied volumes of the main cabin due to the ability of passengers and the cabin crew to recognize smoke.

How would smoke be detected in the cabin when flying without passengers or cabin crew? As an example, this could be the case on a ferry flight where no one in the cabin may be present to detect smoke.

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  • $\begingroup$ I don't think this is common for most commercial jets so I am not putting it as an answer, but I worked on a special freighter type that required all power to be shut off to the supernumerary if there was no crew member in it. $\endgroup$ – OSUZorba Mar 21 '19 at 4:51
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The threat for a cabin compartment smoke or fire comes from paying passengers & baggage. On a ferry flight, you have neither, so the threat is greatly reduced or eliminated. The FAA authorizes ferry permits for only 1 or a few segments to get an aircraft to a facility where maintenance can be performed, these ferry permits take into account the risks involved and thus why no revenue cargo / passengers can be carried.

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When travelling without passengers we we would open all the lavatory doors, as they do have smoke detectors.

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  • $\begingroup$ Based on smoke detector testing I've seen, I doubt that would be very effective at detecting a fire while still small enough to be put out by a portable extinguisher. $\endgroup$ – OSUZorba Mar 21 '19 at 4:52

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