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Innovative Technologies Tackle Inflight Smoke and Fire Challenges

The aviation industry faces an escalating concern with the rise of inflight smoke and fire events, posing severe threats and potentially catastrophic consequences. Addressing this issue head-on, cutting-edge technologies are emerging to provide pilots and crew with effective tools to manage these critical situations. 


According to a study by the Canadian Transportation Safety Board (TSB), pilots have a mere 17 to 19 minutes from activating a fire warning to safely land an aircraft. This intense timeframe underscores the urgency of equipping aviation professionals with resources to combat these dangers effectively. 


The recently certified breakthrough product, the Saved (Smoke Assured Vision Enhanced Display), has been brought to our attention. SAVED is a technique that uses augmented reality (AR) to help pilots navigate through smoke-filled cockpits. "The Saved product provides another tool in which flight crew can have a fighting chance of getting their aircraft safely on the ground or ditched," says Nathan Klatt, CEO of Klatt Works, emphasising the significance of this tool.


The surge in inflight smoke, fire, or fume (SFF) events is attributed, in part, to the proliferation of lithium batteries powering electronic devices carried by passengers, pilots, and crew. Lithium battery fires have been a recurring concern since 2006, with the FAA reporting nearly 500 incidents. The actual numbers are likely higher, with lithium battery fires occurring at a rate exceeding 1.4 events per week in 2022. 


The problems posed by lithium-ion batteries have been described, with a focus on thermal runaway situations, in which the batteries get into an uncontrollably high level of heat. In order to stop smoke or fire incidents, Brown, who is also the chairman of the federal government's Lithium Battery Air Safety Advisory Committee, emphasises the significance of early detection of possible thermal runaways. 


To address these challenges, several technologies are making strides: 


  • A viewing system integrated into the pilot's oxygen mask displays critical flight information and exterior views using AR technology. 

  • Developed in collaboration with FedEx, it recently received FAA certification for the Boeing 777. 


Lithium Fire Guard's PG100 PED Fire Containment Case: 

  • UL 5800 certified and tested, this device can hold a lithium battery in a thermal runaway for several hours. 

  • Protects against explosions, filtering toxic smoke during containment. 


Emergency Vision Assurance Systems (EVAS) by Vision Safe: 

  • Deployed in over 4,000 aircraft globally, including major cargo carriers like FedEx, UPS, and Cargolux. 

  • Inflatable vision units (IVU) enable pilots to see flight instruments outside the aircraft, relieving stress during smoke events. 


In addition to lithium battery fires, other inflight fire sources include faulty wiring, equipment failures, bleed air leaks, and lightning strikes. FAA service difficulty reports highlight nearly 900 annual smoke or fire events in transport category aircraft. 


VisionSafe's EVAS offers a clear air space for pilots to navigate when faced with blinding smoke. According to Alex Werjefelt, Managing Director of VisionSafe, EVAS is a crucial asset in averting accidents caused by smoke, fire, or fumes. 


These technologies underscore the industry's commitment to proactive safety measures. With inflight safety at the forefront, these innovations aim to mitigate risks and ensure a secure journey for flight crews and passengers. 


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