[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 38 (Monday, February 27, 2012)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 11385-11387]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-4571]


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DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

Federal Aviation Administration

14 CFR Parts 21, 25, 121, and 129

[Docket No. FAA-2011-0186; Amdt. Nos. 21-94, 25-133, 121-354, 129-50; 
SFAR 111]
RIN 2120-AJ92


Security Considerations for Lavatory Oxygen Systems

AGENCY: Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), DOT.

ACTION: Interim final rule; disposition of comments.

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SUMMARY: On March 8, 2011, the FAA published an interim final rule, 
request

[[Page 11386]]

for comments (Amendment Nos. 21-94, 25-133, 121-354, 129-50; SFAR 111) 
on security considerations for lavatory oxygen systems (77 FR 12550). 
The interim final rule addresses a security vulnerability and is needed 
so the affected airplanes can continue operating until the non-
compliance to airworthiness standards and operating rules is resolved. 
We sought public comment on the interim final rule even though it 
became effective upon publication. This action responds to the public 
comments the FAA received.

ADDRESSES: You may review the public docket for this rulemaking (Docket 
No. FAA-2011-0186) at the Docket Management Facility in Room W12-140 of 
the West Building Ground Floor at 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., 
Washington, DC, 20590-0001 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through 
Friday, except Federal holidays. You may also review the public docket 
on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For technical questions concerning 
this action, contact Jeff Gardlin, Airframe and Cabin Safety Branch, 
ANM-115, Transport Airplane Directorate, Aircraft Certification 
Service, Federal Aviation Administration, Northwest Mountain Region, 
1601 Lind Avenue SW., Renton, WA 98057-3356; telephone: (425) 227-2136; 
email: jeff.gardlin@faa.gov.
    For legal questions concerning this action, contact Douglas 
Anderson, Federal Aviation Administration, Office of the Regional 
Counsel, ANM-7, Northwest Mountain Region, 1601 Lind Avenue SW., 
Renton, WA 98057-3356; telephone: (425) 227-2166; email: 
douglas.anderson@faa.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    The FAA became aware of a security vulnerability with certain types 
of oxygen systems installed inside the lavatories of most transport 
category airplanes. As a result, the FAA issued Airworthiness Directive 
(AD) 2011-04-09, which mandated that these oxygen systems be rendered 
inoperative until the vulnerability could be eliminated. However, by 
completing the mandated actions in AD 2011-04-09, operators were no 
longer in compliance with the requirements of Title 14, Code of Federal 
Regulations (14 CFR) 25.1447, 121.329, and 121.333, and could not 
legally continue flight operations. AD 2011-04-09 also affects newly 
manufactured airplanes and airplanes undergoing other modification. The 
Special Federal Aviation Regulation (SFAR) is needed to address the 
security vulnerability and allow the affected operators to continue 
flight operations until the non-compliance to airworthiness standards 
and operating rules created by the AD is resolved.
    The FAA chartered an Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) primarily 
comprised of industry representatives in March 2011. The ARC's purpose 
was to recommend regulatory changes and guidance that could be used to 
restore oxygen in affected lavatories while addressing the security 
vulnerability. The ARC submitted its recommendations to the FAA on 
August 3, 2011. The FAA is reviewing the recommendations and will 
initiate additional rulemaking as necessary. The recommendations will 
facilitate developing future rulemaking to address existing and new 
certifications of aircraft. As stated in SFAR 111, we envision a two- 
to four-year regulatory process to restore the affected oxygen systems 
to their full operational capability. Complete restoration includes any 
new regulatory changes, as well as incorporating any new oxygen system 
designs into airplanes currently in service.

Discussion of Comments

    The FAA received comments from ten commenters: Aerox Aviation 
Oxygen Systems, Inc., The Boeing Company, and eight private citizens. 
Boeing and three citizens supported the SFAR with the overall assertion 
that removing chemical oxygen generators from the lavatories poses a 
risk to a small number of passengers compared to putting all of the 
passengers on the airplane at risk by keeping the chemical oxygen 
generators installed.
    Five citizens opposed the SFAR, asserting that the safety benefit 
gained by removing the chemical oxygen system from lavatories to 
preclude the unlikely event of a terrorist attack does not outweigh the 
potential risk of individual passengers experiencing hypoxia in the 
event of a decompression. These commenters also suggested that the FAA 
consider other options, such as installing an alternative oxygen system 
in the lavatories, rather than simply removing the chemical oxygen 
system.
    We disagree with the commenters' assertion that the potential risk 
of a security breach is outweighed by the potential individual risk of 
hypoxia for a passenger in the lavatory during cabin decompression. We 
continue to believe that the approach taken by the FAA--to temporarily 
allow a non-compliance with existing regulations until a solution is 
found to the problem identified in the underlying AD--appropriately 
addresses risk. While there is some risk of hypoxia, the emergency 
descent procedures initiated by the flightcrew are the primary 
protection against hypoxia provided to passengers.
    Pressure loss events have not resulted in a cabin pressure altitude 
that was instantaneously equal to the airplane altitude. Even when 
decompressions have occurred when the airplane is at a high altitude, 
such as 40,000 feet, cabin occupants have not been exposed to those 
altitudes because it takes time for the cabin pressure to leak from the 
fuselage. Flightcrews initiate an emergency descent shortly after they 
receive notification that the cabin pressure cannot be maintained. The 
airplane is already descending by the time the internal cabin pressure 
is equal to the airplane altitude.
    We carefully considered all of the variables and determined that 
the risk to all of the passengers due to the security vulnerability was 
significantly greater than the potential individual risk of hypoxia in 
the event of cabin decompression. AD 2011-04-09 and SFAR 111 are only 
interim measures, and we are actively pursuing regulatory changes 
intended to restore supplemental oxygen in the affected lavatories, 
while considering the security issues.
    We partially agree with the commenters' suggestions to consider 
other rulemaking alternatives because other alternatives could be used 
to restore oxygen in the affected lavatories. We disagree with the 
commenters' suggestions to accomplish longer-term rulemaking actions 
while leaving the chemical oxygen generators installed in the 
lavatories. The security vulnerability would remain until final 
corrective actions were identified and completed. Accomplishing the 
actions in AD 2011-04-09 eliminates the security vulnerability until 
additional actions can be identified and taken to restore the oxygen 
system with a design that would consider the security risk.
    Boeing stated that in and of itself, the SFAR does not require 
removing or expending the contents of the chemical oxygen generators. 
This will likely cause confusion and is not consistent with the actions 
in AD 2011-04-09. Boeing recommended that the SFAR be revised to 
require the oxygen generators to be either removed or expended and that 
the wording be the same as that in the AD; we disagree. The affected 
chemical oxygen generators have already been removed or expended in 
accordance with AD 2011-04-09, and the SFAR does not supersede AD 2011-
04-09. The SFAR provides interim relief

[[Page 11387]]

to operators from type design requirements that the operators would 
have been out of compliance with once the actions mandated in AD 2011-
04-09 were completed. No changes to SFAR 111 were made as a result of 
this comment.
    Boeing also suggested that the SFAR be clarified to allow the 
applicant for a type certificate to receive a production certificate 
and an airworthiness approval for domestic operators affected by AD 
2011-04-09 (14 CFR part 121 operators) or for foreign operators (14 CFR 
part 129) in countries where the local civil aviation authority has 
issued a mandatory action equivalent to AD 2011-04-09. We infer that 
Boeing is requesting we clarify SFAR 111 for airplanes registered 
outside the United States because only foreign registered airplanes 
could be subject to a mandatory action similar to AD 2011-04-09. We 
disagree because SFAR 111 does not apply to airplanes registered 
outside the United States. We cannot provide relief from airworthiness 
standards issued by civil aviation authorities in other countries. The 
responsible civil aviation authority must grant relief from an 
airworthiness standard. Furthermore, SFAR 111, paragraph (b)(2) already 
provides this relief for airplanes registered in the United States but 
operated by foreign carriers. No changes were made to the SFAR as a 
result of this comment.
    Boeing suggested paragraph (c) of the SFAR be revised to indicate 
that it is the operators' responsibility to provide flightcrew training 
procedures for airplanes with a disabled lavatory oxygen system. We 
disagree that this clarification is necessary because the SFAR does not 
include a requirement to revise existing flightcrew training 
procedures. Operators currently have the option to add or revise 
existing training for the cabin or flightcrew as they deem necessary. 
No changes were made to the SFAR as a result of this comment.
    Aerox Aviation provided information pertaining to the availability 
of a small portable, gaseous oxygen supply and stated that such 
equipment could provide an emergency oxygen supply. We are familiar 
with the Aerox portable oxygen equipment as well as other portable 
oxygen equipment from other suppliers. It is possible for operators to 
incorporate installation of portable gaseous oxygen equipment for use 
in the lavatory under existing regulations. If such equipment were to 
be installed, it would need to be approved by the FAA in accordance 
with existing procedures applicable to type design changes. Neither AD 
2011-04-09 nor SFAR 111 would prevent installation of portable gaseous 
oxygen equipment for use in the lavatory. No changes were made to the 
SFAR as a result of this comment.

Conclusion

    After analyzing the comments submitted in response to SFAR 111, the 
FAA has determined that no further revisions to the SFAR are necessary 
at this time. The FAA determined this interim rule remains necessary 
because it addresses an emergency safety situation that made it 
imperative to immediately implement the rulemaking's provisions. While 
the chemical oxygen supply is intended to provide passengers with 
supplemental oxygen when necessary, lavatories become privately 
enclosed areas when in use. Possible tampering with that chemical 
oxygen supply presented a security vulnerability that this rulemaking 
addresses. Therefore, Amendments 21-94, 25-133, 121-354, and 129-50 
remain in effect.
    The FAA is currently assessing the recommendations of the ARC 
discussed above. We are using these recommendations to develop 
additional rulemaking actions that will restore the affected oxygen 
systems to their full operational capability in existing and new 
certifications of affected aircraft, while eliminating the potential 
security threat posed by the previous systems.

    Issued in Washington, DC, on February 15, 2012.
Frank P. Paskiewicz,
Deputy Director, Aircraft Certification Service.
[FR Doc. 2012-4571 Filed 2-24-12; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4910-13-P