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Why no regular use of CO detectors in light aircraft?

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Why no regular use of CO detectors in light aircraft?

Old 3rd Jan 2013, 22:03
  #1 (permalink)  
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Location: United Kingdom
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Why no regular use of CO detectors in light aircraft?


When I took my first ever lesson in a light aircraft at Manchester back in 2008 (the day MSF closed their doors), I noticed one of the small disposable carbon monoxide detectors stuck to the instrument panel.

Carbon Monoxide Detector - Pack of 5 - Detailed item view - Leading Flight Equipment, Pilot Supplies, Aircraft Equipment, Aviation Headsets

Every lesson I've had since has been with another school, and none of our airplanes have these (or any other) detectors. I've also noticed, from looking around at different schools/FTOs/clubs etc for my future flying, that the use of these detectors is actually quite rare.

I'm just wondering, why is their usage so irregular? How come the use of these is not mandatory in light aircraft if there exists a significant possibility of CO entering the cockpit?


Odai is offline  
Old 3rd Jan 2013, 22:47
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Join Date: Sep 2011
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Every aircraft I fly has CO detectors which are changed regularly. It was also part of our oral exam when checking out on different types as to what we'd do if one indicated CO. It's taken seriously at our school/club and rightly so.
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Old 3rd Jan 2013, 22:54
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Why no regular use of CO detectors in light aircraft?

The flight school i learnt at and now rent from (westair at blackpool) have them fitted and checked every so often.
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Old 3rd Jan 2013, 23:11
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Flying a single piston plane with no CO detector should be considered abnormal. If the provider of the plane does not install them, you can carry your own, and I would and do.

While right seat in a friend's 150 decades ago, I pretty well passed out from CO, and certainly was in no condition to land the plane, had I been alone. He was less affected (after only 10 minutes of flying), and landed safely. All I remembered was waking up with my face in the beautiful green grass beside the right main wheel, where he had stopped off the runway. He said that my face was very red, but he did not think I'd lost consciousness. I think I did, though he said I got out on my own. I was walking around 15 minutes later, and feeling fine a few hours later. A large crack was found, inside the heat shroud, on the muffler.

It seems it seems it seems that there were no....um..... lasting um...effects of the CO poisoning, but it created a lasting memory! You can buy little dosimeter type detectors, which clip on your pocket. You might look like a nerd walking through dispatch with it on, so clip it on when you get in the plane. I use mine to do a PPM count a few times a year. The background PPM count seems to range from 5 - 10 PPM, irrespective of the cabin heat selection.

I flight tested a Cessna 206 with an 18" belly camera port, and found that during taxi and takeoff, I registered 300 PPM (where a maximum of 50PPM is acceptable). I did not test fly it, or approve it to fly with the port open to the cabin, as had been requested. I later approved an extended exhaust, which discharged aft of the port - problem solved.

Take CO seriously.
Pilot DAR is offline  
Old 3rd Jan 2013, 23:36
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I wouldn't be to keen flying without a co detecter. The 172 I use has a little carbon monoxide alarm that British gas giveaway velcro taped to the floor.Makes a loud noise and has a test button to check its working.Much better than those tiny circle things that go black in my opinion.
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Old 3rd Jan 2013, 23:44
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I use the CO Experts type that is mentioned in Mike Busch's article.

It is very sensitive and goes off at 20-30 ppm that I get when taxying with the canopy cracked open. I make a point of reassuring the passengers that it's OK.

I was, however, very glad when it warned me of an exhaust failure bringing CO into the cockpit. Turning off cabin heat and opening the cold air vent soon cleared the cockpit, but without the warning there may have been a different outcome (the alarm beeps were quite audible in a very noisy cockpit).

The card types are not great. Short lived, no alarm and sensitive to other contaminants besides CO, but certainly better than nothing.
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Old 4th Jan 2013, 07:45
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Odai - as the other posters have indicated there ought to be a CO detector in every aircraft. I'd recommend you get your own. I use a digital battery operated detector which I place on the floor when flying. It's interesting to see the CO levels particularly when warming up and in the climb and descent. One alarming thing I found was that a side slip on descent can waft enough exhaust gas (a few hundred ppm) into the cabin to give a real CO poisioning risk and set off the audible alarm. About 40 quid gets you a good alarm. Safe flying!
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Old 4th Jan 2013, 08:14
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But its not much good just detecting it especially if you are 30 minutes or more from landing in IMC with an instrument approach before you get down.
Carry a length of plastic tube you can shove through the side window hatch and breath through till landing if CO2 is detected.
It costs a few pence and could save your life the detector will only detect

Pace is offline  
Old 4th Jan 2013, 09:08
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I have a disposable detector that is changed every 60 days and a panel mounted CO Guardian that also acts as a clock and altitude O2 monitor etc.

You should not get in any aircraft that does not have CO detection. The archaic heating systems are driven directly my shrouds around the exhaust. Exhausts crack all the time.
S-Works is offline  
Old 4th Jan 2013, 19:03
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Can someone suggest where a suitable detector can be bought in the UK at the moment -ideally the Kidde/CO Experts models mention in the avweb article, but at least digital display w/10ppm or less.

I see there is a CO Experts Model 2010, does anyone have any feedback on whether that iss a genuine improvement on the 2002 for GA use - and again a link where to buy would be ideal.

I've spent a fair bit of time googling without any joy, any help very much appreciated
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Old 4th Jan 2013, 19:49
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I was unfortunate enough to witness this accident at Osea island in Essex. I was on a boat, anchored only a couple of hundred yards away and I will never forget watching it spin in to the ground. The cause, CO poisoning. Decent CO detectors are not expensive i find it hard to believe that people wouldn't have one in their aircraft...

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Old 4th Jan 2013, 20:31
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does anyone have any feedback on whether that iss a genuine improvement on the 2002 for GA use - and again a link where to buy would be ideal.
I don't have the 2010 model, but it is later than the one in the article. They now have lithium batteries that last the full life of the sensor, so once activated it's good for 5 years than throw away.

I think the company is a very small operation. Probably best to buy direct from Aeromedix. Shipping shouldn't be too much.
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Old 4th Jan 2013, 20:49
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I'm actually quite shocked by some of these posts, I've never questioned my school's decision not to use CO detectors on in the airplanes, and have flown nearly 60 hours with them for the PPL training. I guess I simply assumed that the maintenance regime would pick up on any issues that could allow CO to enter the cockpit.

But what's been posted only makes me wonder even more why they aren't mandatory. From davydine's AAIB link:

Safety recommendation 2002-23
The Civil Aviation Authority should develop an appropriate recognised performance specification against which carbon monoxide detectors can be assessed and approved, with the eventual aim of mandating their use on all piston engined aircraft.
That was a long time ago too, and it's still not mandatory.

Last edited by Odai; 4th Jan 2013 at 20:50.
Odai is offline  
Old 4th Jan 2013, 21:10
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Interesting... Unless you have a very visible / audible digital CO2 monitor, if you use of those small disposable ones then I guess you need to incorporate it into your scan. I have a small supply of those disposable ones and it dawned on me that I hardly check it when I get in the plane, let alone during flight. Maybe it's because it is stuck out of the way on a side window, so I will move it more centrally and try and incorporate it into my scan.
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Old 4th Jan 2013, 21:24
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B&Q Battery monitor with a digital read-out of max. was 30 last month. Loud bleeping if dangerous level is reached. We also have the spot type on the panel - put it amongst the ASI/Altimeter/AH/TC etc, so you don't have to check it - it'll catch your eye if it changes.
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Old 6th Jan 2013, 15:16
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Have you actually asked the question to your school, why not just ask them.

Don't take this the wrong way but your going to alienate yourself and have nowhere to fly from.

The detector is not on the MEL list.

No harm asking questions at all but I just feel you almost want to expose schools causing controversy

Just enjoy your flying and chill out

Again I'm not having a go just trying to prevent you from looking like a pain
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Old 6th Jan 2013, 15:26
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Once mandated, CO detectors will have to be certified, and thus are going to cost
Mariner9 is offline  
Old 6th Jan 2013, 20:31
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Kestrel, apologies if that's how it came across, it wasn't intentional.

I did actually, very briefly, discuss it with my instructor, but my school wasn't the subject of the question. I don't think there's anything to 'expose', as it isn't illegal and as I mentioned, I've seen other schools do the same. Rather, I am wondering why it isn't mandatory in general.

Although I would still be feeling much better about all the time I've already spent in light aircraft for my PPL if we used CO detectors, having read a little more, in addition to some of the posts in this thread, about how common poisoning can be.

In any case, I've now got a pack of the cheaper disposable ones, which I'd say is better than nothing. I'll be sure to take one along whenever I'm renting from a club that doesn't use them in their airplanes.

I appreciate they're not very long lasting and require a bit more attention to be aware of dangerous CO levels, but that shouldn't be a major issue. What I'd be more concerned about is whether they are reliable in terms of their ability to detect CO. Can anyone confirm if I can rely on them to keep safe? There's no point in saving some money if they don't work as well as the audible alarms in terms of actually picking up on the presence of CO.

With regards to not being mandatory; when there is a significant chance of CO poisoning occuring, and with a number of examples of it happening, some fatal, I'd have thought it would be reasonable to expect something so simple to be standard.

Originally Posted by Mariner9
Once mandated, CO detectors will have to be certified, and thus are going to cost
I appreciate red tape has financial implications, but it can't be too bad with the things already being so cheap. Also, while it's no real problem for me, basically having finished the PPL course and thus being in a position to be well aware of all the risks and to take the corresponding precautions, for someone which little or no experience mandating CO detectors can offer protection. When I first started my PPL, I gave no thought at all to the likelihood of CO in the cockpit. And I didn't realise how common poisoning was until I looked into it a bit more having made this thread very recently. I think the same can be said for a lot of things in GA safety, in fact.

I personally certainly would be happier if someone had told me about it when I first started learning to fly. I may well be overreacting in many people's opinion, but I definitely would have taken to using CO detectors right from the start if I had known about the level of risk (which to me, in my own personal view, is too high to accept without trying to mitigate it).

I recently had to spend a fortune in getting reinstated a (class 2) medical certificate that had been suspended by the CAA, preventing me from flying for about 2.5 years. The 'medical' issue concerned was of no significance to flying, and the CAA's opinion of the severity was challenged by each medical professional I consulted. On top of that, had I lived elsewhere, the regulations would have allowed me to fly no problem (the FAA for example). As far as I can tell, there is no record of the issue being remotely relevant to any aviation related incident whatsoever. So for the CAA to consider that sufficient risk to ground me with absurd red tape, but for the risk of CO poisoning to be considered to be too low to mandate any precautions against it when there have been countless documented incidents of it, is irritating to say the least.


Last edited by Odai; 6th Jan 2013 at 20:32.
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Old 6th Jan 2013, 21:15
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Thanks for the link cct. Given the comments and linked docs on the thread I was hoping to find one with a slightly lower alarm threshold than 30ppm. Put whilst I look for a better one, I think 15 to have one sitting on the passenger seat is very worthwhile.

A mate borrowed a plane from the same fleet I rent from a few years back to give his Dad a flight. His dad slept through the flight which he was a bit miffed at, then on short final for no reason he can recall he went around, finally landing (far from a greaser!) and starting to get a splitting headache. You've guessed it - cracked exhaust dumping CO in the cockpit. I think both him and his Dad used up one of their 9 lives that day.

I'd forgotten that story as it was before I started flying lessons, but it came back to me reading this thread, and now with a PPL of my own and having read everything here, it's time for me to take CO more seriously.

If anyone does have a link to a UK supplier of the CO Experts model, I'd still be interested to hear.
Kolossi is offline  

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