NFPA and Aircraft Hangars

Storing and maintaining aircraft comes with its own unique set of hazards.  The primary hazard is concerned with the amount of fuel and the fire load and heat output that this fuel, if impinged upon by fire, would emit. In light of the unique hazards presented, the National Fire Protection Association, has identified special considerations for facilities housing aircraft and aircraft operations.

When searching the NFPA codes a good starting point is NFPA 101, Life Safety Code and NFPA 1, Fire Code.  NFPA 101 is helpful as it is separated by occupancy use/type.  Let's work step by step through the code.
  • We decide that the building will be used only for the storage of aircraft (as opposed to servicing)
  • We must go to Chapter 42, Storage Occupancies
  • The building must comply with all parts of this chapter
  • NFPA 101: 42.6 outlines, "Special Provisions for Aircraft Storage Hangars"
  • This lists several modifications for enhanced life safety and egress for buildings housing aircraft
Now let's assume that the building will be used for the servicing and maintenance of aircraft.
  • The occupancy type that this type of activity fits most closely into is "industrial"
    • NFPA 101: defines these as, " used for operations such as...assembling...finishing...repairing, and similar operations"
  • We must turn to Chapter 40, Industrial Occupancies
  • The building must comply with all parts of this chapter
  • NFPA 101: 40.6 outlines, "Special Provisions for Aircraft Servicing Hangars"
  • This section lists several modifications required to enhance life safety and egress functions
NFPA 1 is broken down into more "process based" sections.  Chapter 21, "Airports and Heliports" provide guidance on aviation facilities, including terminal buildings, rooftop helipads, and hangars.  The direction included in the above NFPA 101 sections is also listed here.  This section goes into further detail related to terminal buildings. NFPA 1: 21.1, states that the construction and protection of hangars shall comply with NFPA 409, Standard on Aircraft Hangars.  This standard is also referenced in the Annex A for NFPA 101:40.6 and NFPA 101:42.6.

As fire inspectors, fire protections specialists, facility managers, and aviation officials, we are pulled in many directions and expected to be knowledgeable in many different areas.  These codes NFPA 101:42.6 and NFPA 1:21 are a great place for the basic information.  However, NFPA 409 provides in-depth guidance for the construction, protection, and maintenance of aircraft hangars. 

My next post will discuss the high cost of non-compliance with these standards regarding the fire protection of aircraft hangars.

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What are your biggest challenges related to aviation facilities and aircraft hangars?

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