ALPA Opposes Boeing Petitions For Exemption on B-747/67 Doors

ALPA has gone on record opposing two petitions for exemption that Boeing recently filed with the FAA related to new enhanced-security cockpit doors.

On March 15, Boeing petitioned the FAA about the certification requirements that are spelled out in FAR Part 25 regarding pressurized cabin loads, asking for a 5-year exemption for B-747s and a 3-year exemption for B-767-200/-300/-400ER airplanes.

The manufacturer said it currently complies with these requirements for aircraft structure to withstand rapid decompression "by analysis, which depends on the flight deck door to vent in the forward direction in case of flight deck decompression." Enhanced-security cockpit doors, which must be installed on all U.S.-registered airliners by April 2003, will not meet these requirements on these two Boeing model families.

"These doors are estimated to be approximately three times the weight of the original door," Boeing explained. "The heavier doors will increase the door opening times, which in turn will increase the decompression pressures. The net effect of this is that the computed rapid decompression pressures may exceed the capability of some details of the flightdeck bulkhead and immediately adjacent areas."

On April 17, the Association advised the FAA, "While ALPA supports Boeing’s efforts to continue delivery of [these aircraft models], both in production and retrofit, which incorporate enhanced-security flightdeck doors meeting the [new security requirements], we cannot support any time-limited exemption to the requirements [to withstand rapid decompression loads].

"An exemption in this area of the regulations could ultimately place the flight crew, passengers, and the aircraft in jeopardy in the event of a rapid decompression originating in the cockpit," ALPA continued. "From the beginning of the industry’s most recent flightdeck security initiatives, ALPA’s position has been that, in addition to flightdeck doors, cockpit bulkheads and floors should be strengthened. The end design must be a fully compliant flightdeck security system that ensures the integrity of the cockpit and, ultimately, the aircraft."

The ALPA response concluded, "We strongly encourage the Boeing Company to continue to examine design solutions, such as increased venting capability between the cabin and the cockpit (e.g., louvers and vents), and increased strength of secondary structural members in the bulkhead and surrounding area as [the manufacturer] strives for the April 2003 compliance deadline."

The FAA has not yet ruled on the Boeing petitions.