WASHINGTON – U.S. airlines have pulled chemical oxygen generators from restrooms on about 6,000 planes after federal regulators ordered them to remove the devices as a security measure.
In publishing a regulation that took effect Monday, the Federal Aviation Administration did not describe the security threat. it has been widely reported that officials feared terrorists could use lavatory oxygen to start a fire in a place where no one could see them.
The move could leave passengers without oxygen if they are in the restroom during a sudden loss of cabin pressure. The FAA says rapid decompression on commercial planes is extremely rare, and it says airlines should emphasize that flight attendants must check restrooms in such emergencies.
The FAA said it was working with aircraft makers to design new systems for providing emergency oxygen to lavatories.
Regulators quietly told the airlines to remove the devices before alerting the public. The FAA said airlines completed removing the generators from 6,000 aircraft on March 4, a week before it issued a final rule in the Federal Register. The agency said if it had publicized the “security vulnerability” before airlines could fix it, “thousands of planes across the U.S. and the safety of passengers could have been at risk.”
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