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Home > Fear of Flying > I don't want to die in an in-flight fire!
I don't want to die in an in-flight fire!
Flying - Fear of Flying
Monday, 08 October 2007 07:08

Dear Captain Lim,

Thank you for your website. I just discovered it today.

I will be flying a Boeing 777 on KLM in December. I hear that it is one of the safest aircraft along with the A-340. Is this true?

My main concern is the increased talk about in-flight fires and that not enough attention has been placed on this very real risk. Is the material on the Boeing 777's fire-proof? Would a fire easily spread and what about smoke? How many fire extinguishers are on the plane and are they enough? What is the situation concerning in-flight fires if one should occur on this particular aircraft?

Since Boeing 777s and Airbus A340s are entirely electrical, could you please explain the fire extinguishing and safety procedures if an electrical fire were to break out and what the pilot and crew members are trained to do? Aren't in flight fire major risks (especially in current carriers) being addressed properly?

I am completely terrified of that. Terrified. Of course, we all just want a smooth flight and I adore traveling but I don't like flying. Well, I don't like crashing or fires but I do like flying and landing smoothly. It's very simple - I don't want to suffer or die. Like the rest of my fellow human beings - I want minimal risk to my life when traveling. The idea of being cooped up in a plane with no place to go or exit during a fire is like a living hell to me.

Please allay my fears and if you can*t do that - please tell me what to do in the case of an electrical fire - what the risk is in a 777 or A-340 so that I may instruct the pilot and crew members. Should I simply bring some cyanide tablets with me in case there is a fire to end it all? :)

Thank you very much Captain Lim!


Hi Eve,

Up to date, the Boeing 777 is indeed the safest airliner with not a single hull loss whereas the Airbus A340 has suffered one recently at Toronto when it was totally burnt after it overshot the runway.

Don't you think that this is already a good reason to fly the Boeing 777? You should not create more fears by thinking about so many negatives. Every in-fight fire accidents are investigated thoroughly and recommendations are made by a Safety Board (NTSB). The Authority (FAA) in turn ensures that future commercial airliners comply with them.

For instance, in the aftermath of the Air Canada DC 9 in-flight fire in 1983 (see Video below), amongst others, the following recommendations were made:-

1. Smoke detectors to be installed in lavatories.
2. Automatic fire extinguishers to be installed adjacent to and in lavatory waste receptacles.
3. To review fire training procedures and amend those that did not take aggressive actions to determine the source and severity of suspected cabin fires.
4. Crew to begin an emergency descent for landing or ditching if the source and severity of the fire are not positively and quickly determined.

Today, most of the materials in the aircraft cabin are fire resistant. The cabin areas of the Boeing 777 have fire detection systems as well as extinguishing systems in the lavatory waste containers. Further, if smoke is detected in each lavatory, an aural alert sounds inside and in the cabin. In addition, the Captain and the Flight Attendants would all be notified. There are also 10 smoke masks and 10 fire extinguishers (BCF) to be used by the crew to fight fire on board.

All the crews are trained to fight in-flight cabin fire and they are tested every year. It would probably take me a very long time to explain each of their responsibilities and the safety procedures involved.

Yes, nobody wants to die in an air crash or fire. Every life is precious. The airline industry endeavors to produce the safest plane possible for everyone.

Everything we do in life has some risks. I believe the safest place is to stay at home. Even then, there is no guarantee that it is free of any risks!

It would be too foolhardy and negative to think about cyanide pills. Would you do that when you are driving your car? On the average, a person is more likely to be killed or burned in a car than in an air crash. Your odds are 1 in 10 million of being involved in a fatal air accident. Yes, you have a better chance of winning a state lottery! Smile

Air Crash Investigations - Fire in Flight


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