No More Emergency Oxygen in Airplane Lavatories

Citing security concerns, the federal government’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently ordered all U.S. airlines to remove emergency oxygen in lavatories on all 6,000 domestic commercial aircraft.

Under “Air Worthiness Directive 2011-04-09,” the FAA said the lavatory oxygen generators must be disabled to “eliminate a potential safety and security vulnerability.” Essentially, this means that if there’s a sudden loss of cabin pressure during a flight, only passengers in their seats will have oxygen flowing to masks that drop down from the ceiling and any passengers who happen to be in the airplane restroom during loss of cabin pressure would no longer have immediate access to oxygen.

According to an msnbc.com report by Harriet Baskas, industry insiders are flabbergasted at the news. “I’m in shock,” said Kate Hanni, executive director of Flyersrights.org, a nonprofit airline passengers' rights organization, as quoted in the msnbc.com article. “We get reports of mid-air decompression events all the time. So now going to the bathroom on a commercial flight can kill you? I’m panicking just thinking about this.”

However, FAA spokespeople were quick to respond to the criticisms, pointing out that in the past 10 years, there have been only 12 incidents of loss of pressure at cruise altitudes, and none in which the cabin altitude reached an unsafe breathing level.

According to the msnbc.com report, all U.S. airlines completed disabling the oxygen generators in plane lavatories on March 4.

So what prompted this new initiative? The FAA told NBC News that the action was done “proactively in response not to a specific threat but to general concerns that a terrorist could use the lavatory oxygen to start a fire or ignite a bomb.”

But according to aviation safety expert Arthur Alan Wolk, as quoted in the article, “Part of the idea of the oxygen mask dropping from the ceiling during loss of cabin pressure is to keep the occupants of the main cabin alive until an airplane gets down to a breathable altitude. By eliminating the source of oxygen for the unlucky souls in the bathroom, you’ve just killed those people.”

For more information on this new FAA directive and the possible implications, read the full article: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/42015889/ns/travel-news