Today in fire history: fire aboard aircraft claims 23 lives

Blog Post created by ryan.quinn Employee on Jun 2, 2012

On June 2, 1983, a fire was discovered by a flight attendant on board a flight that was just outside of Cincinnati, Ohio.  Following unsuccessful attempts to extinguish the concealed fire, the plane made an emergency landing at the Greater Cincinnati Airport.  During the time needed to land the aircraft, conditions within the cabin and cockpit deteriorated rapidly; despite these conditions, the crew was able to safely land the plane.  Once on the ground, flight attendants moved to some of the emergency exits; while passengers seated near the over-wing emergency exits began to open the exits.  Once the aircraft’s emergency exits were opened however, the severity of the fire increased, and only a short time interval was available for occupants to evacuate before untenable conditions were reached. 

Twenty-three persons safely evacuated the aircraft within a minute of landing, and twenty-three passengers died.  At the time of the investigation, the fire’s cause was listed as “undetermined”.  NFPA’s investigation found several factors contributing to the loss of life, and those contributing to occupant survival.

Factors contributing to loss of life include:

  • The lack of automatic detection and effective suppression of a developing, concealed fire in the rear lavatory area
  • The reduced occupant evacuation time resulting from one of more of the following: the rapid developing fire; the effects of heat, smoke, and toxic gases on passengers; and the nature of in–flight emergency egress design

Factors contributing to survival include:

  • Relocating passengers to positions forward of the fire area of origin and adjacent to emergency exits
  • Adhering to emergency instructions given by flight attendants during descent and escape
  • Passengers and flight attendants filtering breathing air through clothes, fabric materials and/or wet towels distributed by the flight attendants

NFPA members can download the full investigation report for free.