Report Reveals Airliner Fire Danger

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Increasingly fly-by-wire airliners are at greater risk of in-flight fires and crews often do exactly the wrong thing when smoke enters the cabin, according to a report to be released in Athens this week. The report, written by U.S. consultant John Cox, to be presented at the Flight Safety Foundation conference, says that three flights a day, worldwide, are interrupted by in-flight fires and that electrical problems are the biggest cause. A modern aircraft can have 100 miles of wire in it and much of it is inaccessible for normal inspection and maintenance. Over time, wires can become exposed, causing arcing or overheating. And when fires start, some time-honored strategies to deal with them can magnify the danger. The report says that when smoke enters the cabin, crews most often open the cockpit door or even windows to clear the smoke and improve visibility. "This tendency to open a flight deck door shows that crew training does not effectively address the importance of maintaining the smoke barrier," Cox wrote. Cox is the former safety chief of the Air Line Pilots Association.