Sir: Mrs William Wordsworth, writing after the Channel Tunnel fire (letter, 10 December), is incorrect in her belief that masks or smoke hoods would be provided to passengers on an airliner in the event of fire. She may be confusing smoke hoods with the oxygen masks provided to passengers in the event of sudden depressurisation of the aircraft at high altitude.
Following the fatal Boeing 737 fire at Manchester airport in 1985, the Air Accidents Investigation Branch recommended that the Civil Aviation Authority urgently consider requiring smoke-hoods to be carried. After extensive research, the CAA concluded that carrying them was not justified.
There is strong evidence that far from assisting passengers to exit the aircraft, smoke hoods would hinder them. Having tried out one of the better hoods on the market, I have some sympathy with that view. They are time- consuming to put on and, once donned, greatly reduce vision, impair hearing and cause general clumsiness - all crucial matters in an evacuation. I suspect that all very young and many elderly passengers would find them virtually impossible to use in an emergency. I know of nobody in professional aviation who has acquired his own hood to take on flights.