17
$\begingroup$

In Fire-involved Accidents and Incidents Reviewed , Rudolf Kapustin stated in 1993 that

Nearly all aircraft accident fatalities that are not the result of crash/impact injuries are the result of post-crash fires and the inability to exit aircraft quickly, which in most cases is attributed to incapacitation from toxic smoke, fumes or injuries.

This makes me wonder why airlines don't provide smoke hoods for their passengers in case of a fire, the same way they provide life vests in case of a water landing. If flights crossing a body of water must have life vests available for all passengers in case of a water landing, why not make an equivalent law for smoke hoods in case of a cabin fire?

Protective breathing equipment, or smoke hoods are protective head coverings that prevent wearers from breathing the smoke, particulates and toxic gases generated in a fire. There are two main types of hoods: those that have a source of breathable air and those that just filter the particles out of the air.

The smoke hood for aircraft passengers wouldn't need to be a firefighting grade smoke hood, just enough to get everyone out of the plane before they get asphyxiated.

Today, the recommendation in case of a cabin fire is to stay near the ground where the air is more breathable. If passengers could be equipped with smoke hoods, they could walk out instead, which would likely make an evacuation faster.

Granted, the smoke hoods would be used on rare occasions, they have a cost, take up space, weigh something, and you have to explain to the passengers what to do with one in case an accident happens. So it is unlikely that an airline would spontaneously decide to equip all seats with an emergency smoke hood.

But life vests have all of those disadvantages as well. It seems to me that these hoods would not be any heavier or any more expensive than the life vests, and might be used on more occasions than the life vests. I've seen smoke hoods the size of a soda can, so finding a place to fit one on each seat can't be so hard.

So why aren't plane equipped with emergency smoke hoods for passengers?

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Your question is very verbose and apparently has several parts of the answer too. $\endgroup$ – Farhan Nov 27 '14 at 23:58
  • $\begingroup$ I've been thinking a bit about the question, but everything I can think of points to the fact that it would be better if there were smoke hoods. $\endgroup$ – usernumber Nov 28 '14 at 0:00
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @usernumber You are allowed to pose a question and then write an answer to it. I wouldn't recommend having an answer mixed into your question. $\endgroup$ – Jay Carr Nov 28 '14 at 3:34
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This is a good question overall and one I'd like to see answered, it could use a bit of work though. $\endgroup$ – GdD Nov 28 '14 at 9:21
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Farhan I don't think it actually contains very much answer. It mentions many factors that would need to be considered in an answer (e.g., efficacy versus various forms of cost) but doesn't attempt to weigh those factors against one another. $\endgroup$ – David Richerby Nov 28 '14 at 10:19
21
$\begingroup$

This is an issue on airline passenger safety that has been debated since a very long time, and there are various arguments for and against the use of smoke hoods.

A classic example which showed the requirement for smoke hoods was the British Airtours Flight 28M, which had an engine failure during its take off roll at Manchester International Airport in August 1985. The ensuing fire and black smoke made the evacuation very difficult, and as a result 48 people died from smoke inhalation. Perhaps, the presence of smoke hoods could have saved many more lives. But at the same time, the subsequent investigation revealed there were other factors which contributed to the tragedy, such as the restricted access to exits and standard operating procedures which did not take into account the wind direction before turning.

From what I have read and researched, smoke hoods might involve unnecessary time wasted in wearing them. After all, airline crews are trained to evacuate a passenger aircraft within 90 seconds with half the emergency exits blocked. This time is considered sufficient to escape toxic smoke related fatalities. Secondly, the passengers might require some detail as in how to use them. Surely, space, weight and cost issues are secondary and can easily be overcome, but these are other issues which prevent their use.

In case of a fire upon crash landing, the immediate action is to evacuate and go as far away as possible from the aircraft. Since the passenger will not be staying in the smoke, it does not seem logical to provide smoke hoods. A water landing on the other hand might require passengers to float on the water surface for some time till emergency services arrive. This necessitates the need for a life jacket, otherwise lives can be lost due to drowning.

$\endgroup$
4
$\begingroup$

Factors that airlines are likely to consider

  • extra cost and weight of equipment
  • additional time and cost to check equipment regularly
    • still present after each flight
    • in good working order regularly
  • need to instruct passengers
  • need to supply boarding parents with specialized devices for infants and small children
    • and provide extra instruction
  • fatalities may rise due to inevitable incorrect use (example)
  • what happens when the panicking passenger by the exit puts their hood on back-to-front?
  • how to introduce intrusive and effective instruction without increasing fear of flying?
  • Every new airplane model must receive a 90-second evacuation drill certification from the FAA before it can fly. Can this be done wearing hoods?
  • In what circumstances are flight crew likely to instruct passengers to don hoods?
  • How likely are passengers to be incapacitated before they can find and complete donning of smoke hoods?
$\endgroup$
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ I'd contend that the 90-second evacuation would be unaffected - it only applies to an intact aircraft. If it's going to take you 4 minutes to get off a crashed plane full of toxic fumes, I'd rather have a hood. $\endgroup$ – Jon Story Nov 28 '14 at 14:15
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ A smoke hood could complicate the usage of the oxygen mask and life vest. Also if constructed from synthetic materials, they need to survive direct flame exposure. Can trap oxygen from the emergency supply. Just some issues, that I could add to that list that require mitigation and probably procedural steps also, $\endgroup$ – jCisco Jul 16 '15 at 17:39
4
$\begingroup$

Another relevant point is that a fire in a confined space can use up all the oxygen in the air very quickly so, for a hood to be useful, it probably has to include its own oxygen supply. But, now, you've increased the amount of oxygen within the plane's fuselage so the hoods might actually make the fire worse and all the people who would have died from smoke inhalation might just end up dying from burns instead.

$\endgroup$

protected by ymb1 Aug 16 '17 at 8:37

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.