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December 28, 1984

Fire, gases, smoke lower crash survival chances

JAMA. 1984;252(24):3349. doi:10.1001/jama.1984.03350240007002

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Smoke was discovered in the jet airliner's lavatory. Airport firefighters reached the jet as soon as its emergency landing was completed. But, says the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB): "About 60 to 90 seconds after the exits were opened, a flash fire engulfed the airplane['s] interior.... 23 passengers were unable to get out and died."

That was in 1983. Now, the Federal Aviation Administration is requiring that, within three years, slower-burning seat coverings (of material to be selected by the airline but conforming to federal requirements) be installed in planes designed for 30 or more persons. Within two years, the agency says, these larger aircraft also must have emergency escape path markings or lighting on or near the floor to help guide passengers to safety when overhead emergency lighting is obscured by smoke.

And, by the end of this month, the agency is expected to decide whether to require the