Monday, March 14, 2011

Hold Your Breath: No Oxygen in Airplane Bathrooms, FAA Rules

Friend and excellent aviation attorney, Dennis R. Haber, passed along this news:

Effective March 14, 2010, the FAA has mandated that "transport category airplanes" -- that's commercial airplanes, to you and me -- must remove oxygen generators in airplane lavatories.

The new rule -- formally called Air Worthiness Directive 2011-04-09 -- arises from a concern by the Federal Aviation Administration ("FAA") and other federal agencies that airplane bathroom oxygen generators pose a security and terrorism risk as they could be used to create a sort of improvised explosive device.
Critics point out that a lack of oxygen masks in airplane bathrooms could be fatal in the event of a "rapid decompression."  Says one report: "By taking out the generators, passengers who are in a lavatory during a rapid decompression event will not be able to use the oxygen masks. They will have to run out of the lavatory—in the middle of a confusing emergency situation—back to their seats."  Or, as one passenger relays,

I was on Southwest 2294 when it decompressed.  Going from a slight nap to tunnel vision  in 7 seconds sucks.  I'd hate to imagine what it would be like if my pants are around my ankles in the process.

In fact, the Aviation Medical Society of Australia and new Zealand have reported that decompression incidents are not as rare as you might thing, with about 40 to 50 rapid decompression accidents occurring every year worldwide.

All this said, bathroom humor aside, the rule has an air of suspicion around it as it was not made public until only recently.

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