An in-flight cabin fire is one of the most serious emergencies a crew can encounter. In my blog (Open Ocean, No Comm, On Fire) several years ago I related my experience with an in-flight fire while over the ocean out of radio contact with Air Traffic Control. In 1998, as the result of an airline accident, the FAA mandated installation of smoke goggles on air carrier aircraft.
Until fairly recently, many airline aircraft provided separate smoke goggles, stored near the crew oxygen masks. This presented a conundrum: which should be donned first, the goggles or the mask? Recently, more and more operators are upgrading their equipment to smoke goggles integral to the oxygen masks.
Obviously, oxygen masks are necessary in the event of a depressurization. But in the event of smoke or fire, goggles are essential, to allow the crew to continue to see the instruments, and to prevent exposure to toxic gasses.
In many cases of structural aircraft fires, cyanide is present in the smoke. this cyanide can be absorbed through the eyes, so it is essential to protect the eyes.
Another solution to allow crews to see the instruments is the Emergency Vision Assurance System (EVAS ).