What pilots do when there’s fire or smoke on an airplane


HONOLULU (KHON2) – Large planes, like the Hawaiian Airlines flight that made an emergency landing, do have systems that can be used to put out of a fire if one were to break out mid-air.

“Smoke and fire is always an emergency, always. It’s one of the more significant emergencies on board any aircraft, any airplane. You’re carrying fuel. You have combustables on board, and you’re up in the air,” said Bruce Mayes, a retired airline pilot.

Mayes said all airplanes have systems in place to detect fires on the airplane. These detection systems are placed in lavatories, cargo compartments, passenger cabins and even in the engine.

Once there’s an alert of a fire, he said sometimes fire extinguishers will automatically set off to stop the fire. The pilot can also extinguish it.

“There are procedures for pilots to follow based on where the fire is located and the indications that are showing in the cockpit,” said Mayes. “Normally you will press a button or select a switch that will discharge the fire retardent into the area that you want to extinguish the fire.”

Officials say the Hawaiian Airlines plane released a chemical called “halon.”

“Halon chemical is one of the fire extinguishing retardents thats included in almost all of the airliners out there, and it actually depletes the air of oxygen so the fire can in fact be extinguished.”

Bruce Mayes, retired airline pilot

He said while this is happening, the pilot needs to be making plans of an emergency landing just in case.

“The pilots are responding to this very significant emergency, and what you want to do is land as soon as possible.You want to get the airplane on the ground and get the people off so that if the fire should continue to burn, no one’s on the aircraft., said Mayes.

Mayes also said that every airline is also required to have a certain number of manual fire extinguishers based on how many passengers are on board.

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