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Aircraft fire extinguishing: What Cabin Crew should learn?

Aircraft fire extinguishing: What Cabin Crew should learn? - By Ahmed Haouaria

13 Sep 2020


I cannot stress enough the critical safety role that flight attendants play in the airline industry. 

Cabin safety contributes to the prevention of accidents and incidents, as well as the protection of aircraft occupants, through proactive safety training and management, which includes hazard detection, safety risk management, and building survival skills in the event of an emergency.

Traditionally, the role of cabin crew members has focused primarily on evacuating an aircraft in the event of an accident. However, cabin crew members also play an important proactive role in the safety process, which can help prevent incidents and accidents. Training is necessary to prepare cabin crew members to perform their safety duties and responsibilities during normal, routine flights and is essential to enable them to recognize an abnormal situation and respond to it.

Training programs in the use of emergency equipment is an essential component of this training.

The safety role of the Cabin Crew Member begins before boarding the aircraft during the briefing where the Senior Cabin Crew Member distributes the safety tasks by assigning one or more Cabin Crew Members to each area depending on the type of operated aircraft.

The pre-flight briefing is a mission carried out before the flight, unknown to passengers, but crucial since it concerns flight safety.

As soon as they arrive on board, the cabin crew carries out the pre-flight inspection.

Crew members under well-defined and rigorous standard operating procedures SOP's, they control the presence, number and proper functioning of emergency equipment and perform individual and collective safety preflight checks. 

Today we are going to focus on fire extinguishers as important emergency equipment onboard airplanes.

Let's start this post first with a brief overview of the following:

- firefighting drills

- fires and their class

- the effects of fires on humans 

- the causes of the fire 

- the fire triangle

1-    Firefighting drills 

Getting passengers out of an aircraft cabin fire as quickly as possible is one of the fundamental roles of cabin crew members when an accident occurs. This is why every year, each Cabin Crew Member is trained to face this situation in practice.

In Life-size models of aircraft that reproduce the structures of the planes where they take place, an opaque (harmless) artificial smoke is produced. 

The exercise consists of putting on a respiratory protection hood that will protect them from the smoke, putting on a fire extinguisher, and coordinating the evacuation according to the exits that can be used and those that are unserviceable.


2 - Fires and their classes

To attack a fire effectively, the extinguishing agent most appropriate for the nature of the fire must be available onboard. 

We generally speak of classes of fires. For this video, we will use the most common classes. We are therefore going to talk about 5 classes:

Class A fires

These are the so-called dry fires. Fires of ordinary combustible materials in which water or high water solutions are usually the most effective extinguishing agent. Burning can be slow without flame or fast with bright flames.

Class B fires

This class refers to flammable and combustible liquids, flammable gases, and petroleum products such as gasoline, oils, alkyd paints, varnishes, thinners, etc. for which the best extinguishing agents are those which act by suffocation of the hearth.

Class C fires

This class refers to flammable gas fires such as butane, acetylene, natural gas, manufactured gases.

Some countries add a `` Class D '' which represents metal fires, which, in contact with water, emit hydrogen causing a high risk of explosion and `` Class E ''. Electrical origin is caused by a short circuit or overvoltage in electrical equipment.

Electric fires are the most difficult to manage in airplanes because of the multitude of electrical equipment and circuits on board.


3-     Potential causes of fire

Energetic or activity-related causes:

•      Sparks, electric arcs,

•      Frictions,

•      Exothermic chemical reactions,

•      Abnormal heating of live electrical conductors,

•      Static electricity


4- The effects of the fire on humans

Fires can have two major effects on humans: smoke and burns.


In a fire, smoke kills much more than flames.

As CO2 is produced by fires in enormous amounts, 80% of fire deaths are due to smoke inhalation.

Fire smoke is rising. They are very hot and release heat by radiation.


This is why, in the presence of smoke, circulate at ground level where the air is more breathable.


In a fire, the risk of burns is as great as the risk caused by the fumes.

A burn is a destruction of the skin coating, or even of the underlying tissues, following the action of agents:

- thermal,

- electric,

- chemical,

- radiation.


5- The fire triangle

For there to be an outbreak of fire, the simultaneous presence of the 3 following items is essential:

Fuel: a body which has the particularity of burning, these are generally compounds of carbon and hydrogen.

Oxygen: a simple body that, placed in the presence of fuel, allows then maintains combustion. 

Heat: Energy source or activation energy: the amount of heat required to start combustion.

Neutralizing any of these will neutralize the fire.

Response time is of the essence in firefighting.

This is why it is necessary to know how to extinguish a fire from its birth.


6- Type of extinguishers on board


B.C.F. Fire Extinguisher



- The presence of the pin and the lead

- The manometer needle: it must be in the green zone

- The generally good condition of the extinguisher.


Remove the pin

- Direct the diffuser towards the base of the flames at a distance of 6 ft

- Press the trigger while holding the extinguisher with both hands until it is completely extinguished.


- To intervene effectively, position yourself 6 feet (1.8 to 2m) from the fire

- Stop using the extinguisher as soon as the gas and noise are discontinued

- If the extinguisher is used on the dry fire, confirm the extinction by wetting the embers with water.


CO2 Extinguisher



- The presence of the pin

- Validity (the indicated on the plate must not be older than 6 months).

- The mobility and stability of the diffuser in any position.

- The generally good condition of the extinguisher


Remove the pin

- Orient the diffuser towards the base of the flames, effective position: 45 °

- Hold the extinguisher with both hands (one on the body, the other on the handle as vertically as possible).

- Strongly press the trigger until it is completely extinguished.


Do not touch during operation:

The diffuser and the swan neck

The base of the extinguisher

Bend down if the operation takes place on a low fire, arms outstretched, the diffuser near the flames.


Water-Fire Extinguisher



- The presence of the pin and the lead

- Validity (the date on the plate must not be earlier than 6 months).

- The generally good condition of the extinguisher


- Remove the pin 

- Turn the handle to strike the cartridge allowing the pressurization 

- Press the trigger, aiming well at the base of the flames (the water comes out in a stuck jet, it can be used with a retreat of 3 to 4 meters).


- No restriction on wood fires, paper, fabrics; clothing.

- Avoid the presence of electric cables.


Toilet waste bin fire extinguishers



During a daily visit, check the color of the temperature indicator tablets:

- White tablets: fire extinguisher in good condition

- Black disc: empty fire extinguisher


If in doubt (color mixing), check the nozzle caps if they are not cracked.


The implementation of the extinguisher is automatic in the event of fire after melting at a given temperature (about 80 ° C) of the caps closing the two ejection nozzles, the product is discharged into the waste bin compartment.


The extinguisher contains 100 grams of pressurized halogen products.

Temperature indicator tablets, glued to the inside of the housing door, ensure that the extinguisher is not discharged as a result of a rise in temperature.


7- Distribution on board


Airplane with 7 to 30 passenger seats = 1 fire extinguisher

Airplane with 31 to 60 passenger seats = 2 extinguishers including 1 Halon

Aircraft with 61 to 200 passenger seats = 3 extinguishers including 2 Halon

Plane with 201 passenger seats and more = 1 additional extinguisher per complete or incomplete section of 100 passengers, of which two minimum are halon.

These extinguishers should be distributed throughout the cabin near areas where the risk of fire is greatest, including galleys and toilets.

By law, all aircraft must be equipped on the flight deck with a BCF type hand extinguisher.

If the aircraft has an upper deck, this deck is considered an independent aircraft.






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