They can be a worst-case scenario but also create ambiguity, which may delay your reaction and introduce new threats.
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  1. My very limited experience with discharging a fire extinguisher is that it made one hell of a mess. What’s it like to discharge a fire extinguisher inside a typical four seat cockpit? Will I still be able to see and breathe enough to fly the plane? I’ve generally thought of the onboard fire extinguisher as something to use in case of an engine fire on the ground, should I rethink that?

  2. This is a great question. If anyone else reading this has discharged a fire extinguisher in the cockpit, please speak up because I think the input would be extremely valuable.

    I have never actually discharged a real fire extinguisher, they use fake ones with water or other materials in training to simulate the experience. After watching a few videos online, my recommendation would be what it often is…it depends.

    1. If you are solo in the aircraft, your efforts are more likely better spent getting the aircraft on the ground ASAP.

    2. If the fire is growing so rapidly the fire extinguisher becomes your best chance to get on the ground safety, I would use it. It will make a mess, but the recommendation for fire extinguishers is generally to empty the bottle at the fire to ensure it is out. At this point, you are weighing the risks emptying the extinguisher and making a huge mess, covering instruments, creating difficulty breathing, reducing visibility, ect with using it partially and having the fire come back. This would depend entirely situation to situation.

    One of the reason smoke and fumes is so scary is because every situation is different. If you’re flying a skyhawk in the Caribbean and you’re in the middle of the ocean, you might be more motivated to fight the fire rather than ditch miles out to sea. If you’re in the pattern you may find getting on the ground and hoping out is the better solution.

    Like I said, I’ve only really worked through this in the hypothetical, but I agree 100% that the ramifications of emptying the bottle should be brought into this discussion. Hopefully someone who has seen this in action will having something to add.


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