FAA, SAE International Focus on Engine Fire Protection System Standards for Aerospace

SAE International responds to FAA request, forming new technical committee centered on fire protection standards.

The engine of an Airbus A319-100 passenger jet operated by Rossiya Russian Airlines caught fire mid-air on June 18, 2018. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) organizational committee provided aircraft to transport teams participating in the World Cup, Saudi Football Federation officials say. (Image courtesy @AhmedMashaly24 on Twitter)

Aerospace systems, subsystems, and components must continue to operate as intended when exposed to fire, rather than going up in flames and ceasing to work altogether. Fire and flammability testing  is an all-important prerequisite to airworthiness, and the focus of a new technical standards  committee that SAE International in Warrendale, Pennsylvania, is forming in response to a request from Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) officials in Washington.

National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) officials inspect a Boeing 737 commercial jet engine after an engine malfunction and subsequent engine fire prompted the emergency landing of Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 in April 2018. (NTSB photo)

SAE International’s new A-22 Fire Protection and Flammability Testing technical committee will develop industry standards for testing aerospace systems and components to assist with the design and certification of fire protection systems, officials say. The initial program of work includes the development of a suite of standards to assist with the update of FAA Advisory Circular AC 20-135, “Powerplant Installation and Propulsion System Component Fire Protection Test Methods, Standards, and Criteria.” The committee will also determine methods to calibrate and setup a new sonic burner as an optional replacement for existing fire test burners.

Right side of American Airlines flight 383, a Boeing 767-323, following an uncontained engine failure and subsequent fire on the runway at Chicago O’Hare International Airport on Oct. 28, 2016. (NTSB photo by Ed Malinowski)

“We are pleased to be working with the FAA on the development of these important standards and appreciate the trust that the FAA has placed in SAE International to utilize industry standards as guidance material,” says David Alexander, director of aerospace standards for SAE International. “Our expert constituents, leaders, and aerospace standards team provide industry and government stakeholders with the confidence to entrust us with the development and maintenance of safety-critical test methods.”

The FAA Tech Center Fire Safety Branch has been tasked by the Transport Standards Branch (TSB) to develop burner performance standards for the next-generation fire test burner for powerplant fire testing. The new burner should be much easier to calibrate and provide more consistent results than current methods, and be readily available for industry use, FAA official say.

The technical committee will meet November 1‒2, 2018 in Atlantic City, New Jersey, following the FAA Fire Safety Systems meetings scheduled October 30‒31.

SAE Aerospace Standards Engineer Laura Feix encourages qualified professionals from aircraft and engine manufacturers, suppliers, testing agencies, regulatory authorities, and research organizations with an interest in serving on the A-22 Committee and contributing to the development of the documents to contact her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or +1 724.799.9198.

SAE International Aerospace Standards repository includes nearly 8,500 active documents which can be accessed at www.sae.org/standards . Its 250 committees comprise 10,000 experts from 56 countries representing industry, regulatory authorities, military agencies, researchers, and consultants. Document development serves the full spectrum of aerospace businesses in both the commercial and military sectors thereby meeting the engineering, advanced technology, safety, regulatory, and defense needs of a world market.

SAE International is a global association committed to being the ultimate knowledge source for the engineering profession. By uniting over 127,000 engineers and technical experts, we drive knowledge and expertise across a broad spectrum of industries. We act on two priorities: encouraging a lifetime of learning for mobility engineering professionals and setting the standards for industry engineering. We strive for a better world through the work of our philanthropic SAE Foundation, including programs like A World in Motion and the Collegiate Design Series.