The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is taking steps to require retrofitting in-service aircraft with more fire-resistant thermal-acoustic insulation.
The move, outlined in a proposed rule change released in early October, would complement a 2009 rule change that applied to new certification standards. But that change does not affect existing type certificates.
The new rule, which would match a similar change already put in place by the FAA, would mandate that—starting in two years—new, higher-standard blankets be installed when work done on in-service aircraft includes replacing blankets. It also would mandate production-line cut-ins, but these have already been done at Airbus and ATR to comply with the FAA’s rule, which went into place in 2003.
“The issue should resolve by itself in the long term, considering that both EASA and FAA regulations have been updated for new designs and that the existing fleet will be eventually replaced by these new-design aeroplanes,” EASA points out in its proposed rule. “Newly manufactured aeroplanes and modified aeroplanes, for U.S. operators, are also equipped with the adequate insulation materials.
“However,” EASA notes, “due to the lack of retroactive measures in Europe, the period during which aeroplanes with lower flammability standard thermal/acoustic materials will still be operating is potentially extended each time a new large aeroplane” certified before the updated rules is delivered. “Similarly, opportunities to upgrade the thermal/acoustic flammability standard of replacement materials may be lost if European regulation is not harmonised with the FAA.”
Because European-based manufacturers complied with the FAA’s rules, the overall impact is expected to be “minimal,” EASA says.