Fire Extinguisher Maintenance and Inspection

FAA Issues InFO About Fire Extinguisher Safety

If you're like most Lancair owners, you have a fire extinguisher installed in your aircraft in case of an inflight emergency involving a cabin fire. Most of us also know that fire extinguishers eventually "expire," that is they should be periodically inspected/replaced. Most certified aircraft that are factory-equipped with a fire extinguisher include an inspection requirement in the instructions for continued airworthiness, or in the Technical Standard Order (TSO) under which the fire extinguisher is manufactured and sold for aviation purposes. Since we fly experimental aircraft we determine requirements for continued airworthiness for our aircraft, and we are under no legal obligation to follow a TSO. So how do we ensure the fire extinguishers in our aircraft are safe and will perform when we need them?

The FAA recently issued InFO 18013, dated 11/15/18 to help you out. In it, the FAA says it's received reports that hand-held /portable fire extinguishers may leak prior to expiration, and although requirements exist for maintenance and inspection of hand-held/portable fire extinguishers, operators may be unaware of them. It further notes that you can eliminate/mitigate potential safety issues by following the guidance provided in Advisory Circular (AC)  20-42DHand Fire Extinguishers for use in Aircraft, Chapter 4, Section 6, which recommends aircraft owners follow:

  • the manufacturer's namplate instructions;
  • applicable National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards; and
  • applicable U.S. Underwriters Laboratories standards.

The NFPA is a non-profit organization comprised of 250+ technical committees staffed by some 9,000 volunteers. It develops and establishes criteria for building, processing, design, service, and installation around the world. NFPA 10-2018 Standard for Portable Fire Extinguishers is NFPA's most recent guidance on selecting, using, and maintaining portable fire extinguishers. It recommends you inspect each fire extinguisher monthly, and that you maintain an inspection record. You can confirm full capacity (i.e. none of the extinguishing agent has leaked out) by weighing the extinguisher.

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