FAA Sets 37-Month Deadline to Retrofit Lavatory Oxygen Systems

The agency had ordered airlines to remove all chemical oxygen generators in March 2011. Airlines and aircraft manufacturers sought up to five years to retrofit, saying there are no actual designs yet for new systems.

Airlines and aircraft manufacturers now have a firm deadline from the Federal Aviation Administration telling them they have about 38 months to complete installing supplement oxygen systems in the lavatories of transport planes. The compliance deadline is 37 months from the Aug. 10 effective date of the new airworthiness directive.

FAA in March 2011 ordered the systems to be removed for security reasons. The new directive affects 5,500 airplanes of U.S. registry at an estimated cost of $44,220,000 for the new installation (plus up to $935,000 for the earlier removal of the chemical systems), FAA stated.

Several airlines and manufacturers, including Airbus, Boeing, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and All Nippon Airways, asked FAA to extend its proposed 24-month deadline, saying no actual designs for replacement systems exist. However, the Association of Flight Attendants and the Air Line Pilots Association International asked that no extension be granted, saying even with the proposed 24 months, aircraft lavatories will be without oxygen systems for about 3.5 years in all. FAA said in the new AD final rule that based on the number of affected airplanes and the lack of an approved design solution, 24 months is not feasible.

Thirty-seven months provides an adequate level of safety, FAA states in the rule. It also says all affected airframe manufacturers have discussed their intended approaches with FAA "and appear to have viable solutions."

The agency did not accept the Association of Flight Attendants' suggestion that FAA add new training requirements for crew members on proper procedures for rapid decompression situations before the new oxygen systems are installed. "We disagree with the request. As previously determined, the risks are very low for the time periods involved," FAA said. "The resources needed to implement AFA's recommended interim steps could be better used in rapidly incorporating a final design solution."

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