The FAA recently ordered the emergency oxygen masks removed from the lavatories of all US commercial planes, a directive it says will protect the public from potential terror attacks—but which could also kill anyone who happens to be in the airplane lavatory during a rapid decompression event. The FAA believes terrorists could turn the oxygen generators into explosive devices, Click2Houston reports. Air Worthiness Directive 2011-04-09 was kept from the public until recently for reasons of national security, and had already been enacted in 6,000 planes by last Friday without the government or the airlines informing passengers, Gizmodo notes.
Despite the fact that pilots begin guiding the plane to a safe altitude as soon as a decompression event occurs, pilots and crew members confirm to Gizmodo that, in the time it takes a passenger to get from the lavatory back to their seat in such an event, the risk of lung trauma or death is very real. One person who experienced a rapid decompression event describes “going from a slight nap to tunnel vision in seven seconds.” The FAA insists rapid decompression events are “extremely rare”—industry experts say about 40 to 50 take place each year. Says an airline industry source, “If you have a rapid decompression and you're in the bathroom, there's a good chance you won't survive it, and the rest of the airplane will.” (Which do you think is the bigger threat: the rare chance of rapid decompression, or the rare chance of a terrorist attack? Share your two cents in the comments area.)