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Post Crash Fires

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Article Information
Category: Fire Smoke and Fumes Fire Smoke and Fumes
Content source: SKYbrary About SKYbrary
Content control: EUROCONTROL EUROCONTROL

Description

Post Crash Fires are fires which occur after an aircraft has crash landed or has impacted obstacles or other aircraft during ground movement, runway incursion, or runway excursion.

Effects

Depending upon the severity of the crash, and the resulting fire, the effect on the aircraft can vary from minor damage to total hull loss. Similarly, the potential casualty consequence of a crash/fire event ranges from no injuries to the loss of life of all on board. Collateral damage and casualties are possible dependent upon the location of the crash.

Defences

  • Aircraft Design
  • Fuel - Virtually all large passenger aircraft burn jet fuel and not avgas. The much higher flashpoint of jet fuel reduces the potential for a post crash fire.

Solutions

  • Aircraft Evacuation - Expeditious emergency evacuation of the aircraft. Consequently, robust training of the cabin crew in evacuation procedures is essential.
  • Engine ShutdownTo minimize the potential for injury during the evacuation, the flight deck crew will take all necessary actions to shut down and secure the aircraft engines, shutting fuel valves and cocks. Depending upon the degree of damage to the aircraft, this may not always be possible.
  • Rescue and Fire Fighting Services' - Rescue and Fire Fighting Services (RFFS) are instrumental in saving lives and minimizing the damage from a post crash fire. If the crash occurs within the airfield boundaries, the initial RFFS response units will be on site within a very short period of time; often less than a minute. Response to an off airfield crash may take considerably longer due to the time it may take to locate the crash and to the accessibility of crash site.

Contributing Factors

Large amounts of fuel can be carried by modern aircraft and an aircraft crash has the potential to rupture the fuel tanks. Should the spilling fuel be exposed to a spark or open flame a fire may occur. This is particularly true of fuels with low flashpoints such as avgas. While jet fuels have a higher flashpoint and are less susceptible to sparks, exposing them to operating engines or to hot engine components may raise the temperature of the fuel to its auto-ignition point and a fire will result.

Related Articles

Accidents & Incidents

The Following is a list of events which have involved a post crash fire:

  • A109, vicinity London Heliport London UK, 2013 (On 16 January 2013, an Augusta 109E helicopter positioning by day on an implied (due to adverse weather conditions) SVFR clearance collided with a crane attached to a tall building under construction. It and associated debris fell to street level and the pilot and a pedestrian were killed and several others on the ground injured. It was concluded that the pilot had not seen the crane or seen it too late to avoid whilst flying by visual reference in conditions which had become increasingly challenging. The Investigation recommended improvements in the regulatory context in which the accident had occurred.)
  • A140, vicinity Tehran Mehrabad Iran, 2014 (On 10 August 2014, one of the engines of an Antonov 140-100 departing Tehran Mehrabad ran down after V1 and prior to rotation. The takeoff was continued but the crew were unable to keep control and the aircraft stalled and crashed into terrain near the airport. The Investigation found that a faulty engine control unit had temporarily malfunctioned and that having taken off with an inappropriate flap setting, the crew had attempted an initial climb with a heavy aircraft without the failed engine propeller initially being feathered, with the gear remaining down and with the airspeed below V2.)
  • A169, Leicester UK, 2018 (On 27 October 2018, a single pilot Augusta Westland AW169 lifted off from within the Leicester City Football Club Stadium, but after a failure of the tail rotor control system, a loss of yaw control occurred a few hundred feet above ground. The helicopter began to descend with a high rotation rate and soon afterward impacted the ground and almost immediately caught fire, which prevented those onboard surviving. An Investigation is being conducted by the UK AAIB.)
  • A306, vicinity Birmingham AL USA, 2013 (On 14 August 2013, a UPS Airbus A300-600 crashed short of the runway at Birmingham Alabama on a night IMC non-precision approach after the crew failed to go around at 1000ft aal when unstabilised and then continued descent below MDA until terrain impact. The Investigation attributed the accident to the individually poor performance of both pilots, to performance deficiencies previously-exhibited in recurrent training by the Captain and to the First Officer's failure to call in fatigued and unfit to fly after mis-managing her off duty time. A Video was produced by NTSB to further highlight human factors aspects.)
  • A306, vicinity Nagoya Japan, 1994 (On 26 April 1994, the crew of an Airbus A300-600 lost control of their aircraft on final approach to Nagoya and the aircraft crashed within the airport perimeter. The Investigation found that an inadvertent mode selection error had triggered control difficulties which had been ultimately founded on an apparent lack understanding by both pilots of the full nature of the interaction between the systems controlling thrust and pitch on the aircraft type which were not typical of most other contemporary types. It was also concluded that the Captain's delay in taking control from the First Officer had exacerbated the situation.)

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