Regulators Flag Lavatory Fire Bottles For Return-To-Service Checks

The unprecedented idling of thousands of aircraft has created new issues for regulators to address.
Credit: Sean Broderick/AWST

Instances of lavatory fire extinguishing bottles not working on aircraft returning from storage and inconsistent recommendations from manufacturers have prompted regulators to add the watch item to newly updated guidance on safe return to service protocols.

“The FAA has received reports of numerous lavatory fire extinguishing bottles found discharged across multiple fleets and different fleet types following a prolonged period in a high-temperature environment,” the U.S. agency stated in a July 21 safety alert. “These discharges were likely caused by high aircraft cabin temperatures experienced during parking or storage.”

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) flagged the risk in a newly revised guidance document on preparing aircraft for return to service, adding it to a list of recommended inspections and urging checks for some in-service aircraft as well.

“This inspection should be performed retro-actively if it was not part of the return-to-service inspection after parking/storage, if such inspection was not performed as part of the return-to service checks,” EASA stated.

Reviews by the regulators found “inconsistencies” in aircraft maintenance manuals about whether bottle inspections are needed after prolonged storage, the FAA said. “Some [manuals] contain procedures for inspecting the lavatory fire extinguishing bottles, while others do not.”

In addition, some bottles have pressure gauges, which simplifies the inspection process. Those that do not should be weighed, the FAA bulletin said.

“Operators should consider meeting with their appropriate Principal Maintenance Inspectors to discuss inspection procedures that include the lavatory fire extinguishing bottles,” the FAA added. 

The regulators’ guidance targets any operator with aircraft that have lavatory fire extinguishing bottles. It adds to a series of emerging best practices that are being developed in response to the unprecedented idling of thousands of aircraft for long stretches—months or more—in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and related travel restrictions.

Sean Broderick

Senior Air Transport & Safety Editor Sean Broderick covers aviation safety, MRO, and the airline business from Aviation Week Network's Washington, D.C. office.