Since 1993, at least 600 individuals have died as a result of being burned alive or smoke inhalation following small airplane crashes.
Results show that many victims who died from fire or smoke inhalation sustained very few broken bones or other injuries. In some instances the fire occurred following a minor crash. While in other instances the impact was greater. What the crashes have in common is fuel line ruptures or fuel tank ruptures causing an instant fire.
The Federal Aviation Administration, FAA, has taken no action regarding the fuel line/tank rupture issue. In 1990, the FAA proposed changes for small airplanes to have equipment and design changes to prevent such fires. However, the FAA withdrew the proposal facing criticism from airplane manufacturers. The reason for the withdrawal–not worth the additional cost.
The National Transportation Safety Board, NTSB, criticized the FAA’s decision for rejecting fire prevention recommendations. A Canadian safety agency likewise criticized the FAA’s decision. Investigations show that in several crashes, some deaths and serious burns from fires and/or smoke inhalation could have easily been prevented had the airplanes been equipped with commercially available fuel systems. These systems have better resistance to ruptures following a crash.
In 1978, the FAA noted itself that fuel line/tanks “would undoubtedly result in the saving of lives which otherwise would be lost in post-crash fires.” Again in 1990, the FAA noted “Improved crash resistance is necessary to prevent thermal deaths and injuries in survivable crashes.” Finally in 1994, the FAA started requiring crash resistant fuel systems in some helicopters.
Additional costs vs. saving lives/injuries. That is the ultimate question.