Home' Australian Aviation Magazine : January February 2010 Contents 63
JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2010 AUSTRALIAN AVIATION
through the fleet since 2004 with over 95
per cent of aircraft upgraded.
However, seals were only part of the
issue, with misreporting by crews and
fundamental cleanliness of the aircraft
other factors, according to BAE Systems.
Perhaps the most interesting example of
the latter was a Flybe 146 fume event in
September 2007 which turned out to be
overuse of bleach in the forward toilets.
A 146 was operating from Birmingham
to Belfast on a repositioning flight and
the crew felt lightheaded just after takeoff
and all donned oxygen masks. According
to the UK Air Accidents Investigation
Branch (AAIB) report, "the origin of the
fumes was traced to the for ward toilet and
was due to a chemical in the toilet." A
spokesman for the airline told British me-
dia that too much formaldehyde was used
to clean the toilet during maintenance at
Although the issue is certainly most
associated with the 146, fume issues have
been reported by aircrews on a host of
other aircraft including the 757, A320,
737 and ERJ-145, while in military ser vice
the C-130 has had its share of complaints.
Gauging the extent and seriousness of the
problem is as challenging as fixing it. e
UK CAA's database reveals that there were
nearly 1800 reports of fumes entering the
cabin from 1985 to July 2006. While a few
related to smoke, most involved vapor con-
taining engine oil constituents introduced
through the engine or APU compressors.
In the first six months of 2009, 38 con-
taminated air events were reported in the
UK out of 553,266 flights. None involved
the 146, while eight involved the 757. A
total of 97 UK events were reported in
2008 out of 1.2 million passenger and
cargo flights. Twelve commercial pi-
lots (out of 20,000 licence holders) lost
medical clearance for reasons that they
attribute to poor cabin air. According to
the government, out of 29,000 passenger
complaints put to the UK Air Transport
Users Council since January 2001, only
one has related to air quality.
In the US the FAA believes that under-
reporting of fume events is an issue, with
Director of Flight Standards Ser vice Jim
Ballough telling the US/Europe Interna-
tional Aviation Safety Conference last June
that the "FAA is becoming increasingly
concerned by numerous reports of smoke
or gasses on flightdecks and in passenger
cabins. Our analyses of the data indicate
that a large number of such incidents are
In March 2008 the FAA sent out a
Flight Standards Information Bulletin for
Airworthiness, requiring the introduction
of new reporting routines for incidents
involving smoke or fumes in passenger
cabins and on flight decks. e emphasis
was placed on maintenance personnel to
determine whether airlines have adequate
procedures for reporting, investigating and
following up incidents. e FAA wants fol-
low-up and records on every event to give
the industry accurate data to investigate
and monitor development trends.
Former captain Tristan Loraine who is
co-chair and founder of the Global Cabin
Air Quality Executive has authored a book
called Toxic Airlines on the subject. His
efforts were in response to a fume event he
says occurred in 2006 while in command
of a 757.
Former Australian based BAe 146
pilot Susan Michaelis has published an
844-page reference manual covering
the issue of air quality called Aviation
Contaminated Air Reference Manual which
has been reviewed and highly commended
by the RAAF. e RAAF went further
and claimed that there was a "widespread
prevalence of denial of the existence of the
problem, particularly among the aircraft
operators and aviation regulators."
Michaelis's work makes some interesting
claims such as:
1. An FAA 2005 report indicates one
fume or smoke event from engines for
every 10,000 flights.
2. Less than four per cent of contami-
nated air (CA) events are reported.
3. More than 20 per cent of CA events
result in pilot impairment.
4. More than nine per cent of CA events
result in both pilots being impaired.
e body of evidence to support a
problem prompted the UK House of Lords
to launch an investigation which is being
conducted by Professor Helen Muir of
Cranfield University. Muir has told the
BBC that "there will be organophosphates"
on the flightdeck, but questions whether
"they were there in sufficient concentra-
tions to potentially cause harm to people."
Her report is due this northern spring.
NOT TOXIC? An expert panel advised Ansett that toxic levels on the 146 were thousands of times lower than
international standards. (Craig Murray)
RE-SEALING National Jet worked extensively with BAE Systems and AlliedSignal to rectify the 146 engine
seal problem. (Les Bushell)
More than 60 Ansett flight attendants claimed
they could not work on the 146 and were rostered
on other aircraft.
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