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B744 main cargo deck fire warning

Started by Magoo, Tue, 6 Feb 2024 00:53


I'd love to hear opinions as to how you would deal with a situation like this. I known there are many way to skin a cat and I'm not judging the crew's actions in this case.

I realize the QRH doesn't ask about going to take a look downstairs to confirm if you're on fire or not but would you, should you? What if you are a long way away from a possible diversion airport?


As an arm-chair captain, I would not risk any warning and treat every fire alarm as an actual one. I would prefer to land at any nearest airport that can accept my plane. This is a simple view, and as a commander of real plane, you have to take into consideration a lot of variables.

Look at UPS006 as an example. They had an actual fire and opted to divert back to Dubai that was further away then Doha. It would take about 17 mins to get to Doha (as per the final report). I know that it is easy for me to say, but I would always opt for closest airport. If I remember correctly, checklist states "Land at the nearest suitable airport." For them, suitable was Dubai (vs. Doha; as per the report), but there is a high chance they would walk away and live another day, had they diverted to Doha.


I would follow the QRH, which moves from smoke control, to fire suppression, directly to "Prepare to land," with no attention being paid to determining whether a fire indication is real. There have been enough incidents in which the time from first alert to catastrophe has been on the order of a half hour, and in that case, even 5 minutes spent trying to confirm a real fire can make a difference.

Now, maybe the crew is tempted to "have a look" once the aircraft is descending on course to the nearest suitable airport, ATC and company have been informed, the approach has been set in the FMC, and the only thing happening up front is watching the autopilot. But even then, if you go back and see nothing amiss, would you really want to cancel the emergency and go back on course? Maybe the fire is small and stays hidden until you get back up to cruising altitude, and then it breaks free with a vengeance and you just wasted many minutes that could have been spent landing.

Best to get the plane on the ground, and do the troubleshooting and inspections from the safety of the tarmac.
Will /Chicago /USA

Jeroen Hoppenbrouwers

The problem with aircraft is that you cannot briefly pull over to check what is going on.


How about this news headline: "Black boxes found. Crew ignored fire warning and continued with the flight".

Ignoring a fire warning is very dangerous violation.


No one is talking about ignoring a fire warning, quite the contrary.

Jeroen Hoppenbrouwers

Maybe we have two questions in one.

Would you even consider to have a peek downstairs after all required items have been executed and the airplane is underway to the diversion airport on A/P with everything else looking smooth and normal.

If after a peek downstairs there is no indication at all of fire or smoke, would this help you in the assurance that you are not going to die today and reduce stress levels during the diversion, which obviously you will still execute no matter what?



Main decks on aircraft freighters are usually class E, this means that there is no fire extinguishing available inflight. The protection of the crew is based on shutting down airflow to the main deck, and providing a positive pressure of air to the flightdeck. On many freighters there will be a "seal" (9G bulkhead ie) and that seal should not be breached to prevent air from flowing from the flightdeck into the main deck. From the moment you open that seal "to take a look", you might end up in danger yourself, but you also put the full crew in danger.

Also: the danger is not the fire, the danger is the toxic gas the fire created, especially with freighters.

Spurious warnings are a known problem on freighters. It happens. There is a big danger in making "check yourself" a standard habit, as no operator will ever legally put that on paper as a procedure. The danger is that it becomes  habit amongst crews and a "system" designed to protect yourself ends up being neglected by crews. We know the issue of spurious warnings, but it is not up to us to take the risk. It is a system problem, and should not become a pilot problem.