A fire which occurs while an aircraft is airborne.
Fire in the air is one of the most hazardous situations that a flight crew can be faced with. Without aggressive intervention by the flight crew, a fire on board an aircraft can lead to the catastrophic loss of that aircraft within a very short space of time. Once a fire has become established, it is unlikely that the crew will be able to extinguish it.
- Engine Fire. An engine fire is normally detected and contained satisfactorily by the aircraft fire detection and suppression systems. However, in certain circumstances (e.g. an explosive breakup of the turbine), the nature of the fire is such that onboard systems may not be able to contain the fire and it may spread to the wing and/or fuselage. Where an engine fire has been successfully contained, there is still a risk that the fire may reignite and therefore it is still advisable for the crew to land the aircraft as soon as possible and allow fire crews to carry out a visual examination of the engine.
- Cabin Fire. A fire within the cabin will usually be detected early and be contained by the crew using onboard fire fighting equipment. As with an engine fire, it is still advisable to land the aircraft as soon as possible and carry out a detailed examination of the cause of the fire and any damage.
- Hidden Fire A hidden fire may be detected by onboard fire detection systems or by the crew or passengers noticing smoke or fumes, a hot spot on a wall or floor, or by unusual electrical malfunctions particularly when the systems are unrelated. This is the most dangerous type of fire for 2 reasons:
Hidden fires are difficult to locate and access in order to fight them. The time delay may allow the fire to take hold and do considerable damage to the aircraft.
A hidden fire may initially be difficult to confirm and the crew may be slow to initiate an emergency landing. The consequence of such a delay may be that the fire becomes non-survivable before the aircraft has an opportunity to land.