View Full Version : Cabin vapour may be risk to flyers

9th Oct 2002, 17:31
Thurs "Melbourne Age" 10/10/02

Cabin vapour may be risk to flyers
October 10 2002
By Darren Goodsir

Qantas is using an aircraft on its regional services that scientists believe could be causing serious health problems due to mysterious cabin vapours.

A collection of surveys and medical research, reported in the Journal of Occupational Health and Safety, Australia and New Zealand, has concluded that flight crew and passengers using the BAe146 jet are increasingly at risk of suffering eye, skin, respiratory and neurological problems.

The toxic fumes come from two sources: leaking engine oil and faulty air-conditioning units.

The vapours, which can range from a light blue hue to a black cloud, can smell like a strong blue cheese, or baby vomit, research participants said.

Qantas, which flies 15 of the 70-seat jets, last night dismissed the findings as unnecessarily alarmist, and said remedial action was constantly being undertaken to ensure the aircraft were safe.

The head of the School of Safety Science at the University of NSW, Chris Winder, said yesterday that airlines and safety regulators had a clear duty to stop vapours.

"It sounds simple, but the sure way to fix the problem is to make sure oil stays in the engine... where it is supposed to be," Professor Winder said.

Three recent surveys of pilots and flight crew who worked regularly on the four-engine jets were cited in the journal report.

The most recent analysis of 21 BAe146 pilots showed that they experienced problems such as recurring headaches, diarrhoea, brain impairment and an intolerance to some food and alcohol.

A co-author of one of the reports, Susan Michaelis of the Australian Federation of Air Pilots, said: "This is just the tip of a very large iceberg.

"There have been hundreds of reports of oil leaks over the past 10 years, many causing health problems."

The aircraft's in-cabin problems were first highlighted in Australia in a 1999 Senate inquiry.

Later that year, the then Bureau of Air Safety Investi-gation reported on a 1997 incident in which a pilot suffered jerky control responses and vertigo after being exposed to fumes.

The BASI report formally recommended that the Civil Aviation Safety Authority and the aircraft's manufacturer, British Aerospace, take remedial action.

It also warned there was "potential for further... flight and cabin crew to become incapacitated during flight due to exposure to odours."

In response to those findings, CASA will this month convene a working party of airlines, consumers, safety official and health experts to discuss the issue.

A CASA spokesman said: "The purpose of the meetings is to review developments in cabin air quality and monitor international research in this area."

Qantas's executive general manager, aircraft operations, David Forsyth, said much work had been done since the 1999 Senate report. He said: "There are so many individual variables when it comes to the reactions of people to conditions that are in the cabin of an aircraft.

"Obviously, we would not be flying these planes if we had concerns about health problems."

Qantas said that in the past year there had been a 30 per cent drop in complaints of vapour problems in the aircraft, which reflected improved maintenance procedures.

Last July, lawyers acting for a former Ansett flight attendant secured an out-of-court settlement after a district court action in Perth.

9th Oct 2002, 20:33

The toxic fumes come from two sources: leaking engine oil and faulty air-conditioning units.

Ok I bit : I guess the other sources don't count :D

11th Oct 2002, 03:15
Slightly off the subject I know, but heard the tale of a FA (deceased) who's organs were unsuitable for donation. Reason being (apparently) the effects of long-haul flying over a number of years (not the amount of drinking). Anyone heard anything similar?

cabin secure
11th Oct 2002, 13:00
YES Djembe 56
Have heard the story. The flight attendant was known to consume huge amounts of coca cola which, due to its caffeine content, is a diuretic. This in combination with the aircrafts environment was the primary reason the F/A's organs were not able to be donated.
Her organs were so badly dehydrated they were not able to be used for transplant patients.

12th Oct 2002, 00:23
I would imagine that any turbine aircraft that used bleed air for pressurisation would be capable of passing oil fumes into the pressure vessel.

From personal experience, Garrett 731s were good at this.

I'm with stupid
12th Oct 2002, 03:09
spot on 601, 8 years in the fruitbat did'nt effecteffecteffect me one bit;)

I did suffer quite a bit from headaches and nausea, but this seemed to subside when the o/nites became less frequent, also I have a very high intolerance to Bundy, yuck !!

the bloke from QF is right ( ouch, hate to admit it ) they were working on the problem consistently and it was improving.

12th Oct 2002, 04:41
One thing for sure, they still will be flying until the lease is up... after that.... 717's or more dash 8's ?????

14th Oct 2002, 02:35
I'm with stupid,

have to agree. I cannot recall having had a head ache on board but I certainly remember waking up with a few.

Brain impairment. Don't know I can't remember!