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A Boeing engineer's warning about toxic cabin air


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fonte: express.co.uk


A SENIOR engineer at aircraft giant Boeing warned bosses they would be “looking for a tombstone” unless they tackled the potentially deadly issue of toxic fumes on board passenger planes, a bombshell email reveals.

The Sunday Express has obtained a memo written by a long serving employee at the US company in which he complains he and other engineers have been given the “run around” over their fears.

The engineer was so worried about the risk to passengers on board Boeing’s planes he told bosses he was amazed air safety regulators were not taking stronger action.

He said in the email Boeing was fully aware of the issue and some of the events that had been witnessed, including blue clouds of chemical compounds circulating above passengers’ heads, were “significant”.

The email was sent in 2007 and campaigners say it shows how much the aviation industry was concerned despite public statements even today that the air is safe.

The issue of toxic air, which regularly forces pilots to don oxygen masks, is one of the most serious facing the aviation industry, yet passengers are generally unaware it even exists.

According to official Civil Aviation Authority records, the entire crew of a British registered Airbus was taken to hospital for toxicology tests following a “fume event” on an unidentified flight to Geneva last month.

Yet just days later, Transport Minister Baroness Kramer told Parliament passengers had no automatic right to know whether they too might have suffered.

She flatly rejected a call by the Countess of Mar in the House of Lords to force airlines to inform passengers whenever a fume event occurs.

She also said there was little point in installing air quality monitors on board because “it is not clear what a monitoring system would be seeking to detect”.

Experts, such as the highly respected aviation analyst David Learmount, say this potentially endangers the long term health of those who fly.

The issue concerns the way breathing air enters the cockpit and passenger cabin.

On almost every aircraft, the air passengers breathe is sucked unfiltered into the cabin from the compression section of jet engines and is known as “bleed air".

Any oil leak at high temperatures in the engine seals, which can occur when pilots change the thrust of the plane, can release a complex mixture of potentially toxic fumes containing organophosphates.

Crew and passengers would only be aware of a possible leak by a strange, pungent, often likened to “smelly socks”.

A build up of these organophosphates has the ability to attack the body’s nervous system, causing serious illnesses.

However, because the term “aerotoxic syndrome” is not widely recognised by the medical profession, doctors will rarely ascribe its symptoms, such as nausea and loss of cognitive ability, to hours of flying.

It is argued the aviation industry deliberately plays down the significance of the issue for fear of the multibillion pound consequences.

Experts have categorically ruled it out as a cause of the Boeing 777 Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 disaster.

Those who have campaigned for years on the issue believe they are closer to a major breakthrough.

The Sunday Express can reveal that this week, lawyers for the family of late British Airways pilot Richard Westgate, will hand a file of evidence to a UK coroner calling for an inquest into his death.

He died aged 43 in Holland in December 2012, weeks after a specialist aviation doctor diagnosed him suffering from aerotoxic syndrome.

If the coroner accepts the request, BA, which vigorously asserts that the health of passengers and crew is a priority, will be cross-examined in a court environment how it deals with toxic air.

A Civil Aviation Authority dossier containing the most recent “fume events” was obtained by the Sunday Express last week.

It shows a spike in reports over the past six weeks.

During one unidentified Airbus A320 flight to Geneva on March 9, a day after Flight MH370 disappeared, the pilot discussed declaring a mid-air emergency as a result of a “pungent aroma of oil smelt on the flight deck”.

The official report states the “entire crew” was taken to hospital for toxicology tests after landing and that the “captain noticed some difficulty in completing the tech log.

It continues: “Eyes were smarting…balance was affected to a slight degree.”

Two days later, similar symptoms were reported on another Airbus.

The report states two passengers also complained of headaches following a “strange smell”.

“After the cleaning the cabin, the crew had to leave the aircraft as they felt dizzy and not able to breathe the contaminated air in the cabin,” the report continues.

“During landing, the captain reported massive problems in swallowing.”

Whenever questioned on the issue, airlines and aircraft manufacturers repeatedly state cabin air is safe and point to a much criticised Government-backed study by Cranfield University in 2011 which found no evidence of any harm to long term health.

However, the emergence of the 2007 Boeing email sheds a new light on the arguments behind the scenes, campaigners say.

Just four years later Boeing launched its 787 Dreamliner, the only major commercial jet not to use a bleed air system and which has no history of fume events.

In the email, the engineer, who worked in the environmental controls division in Seattle, tells colleagues: “John was the most recent to try to get the propulsion folks to step up to owning their by-products.

“All he got was the run around like I got in 2000. The Engine specs are the hole no one has addressed.

“With all the diversions (about one every two weeks) and ‘return to base’ events due to Haze in the Cabin, I would have thought the FAA would have made the engine manufacturers address this issue by now.

“Some of the [boeing] 757 events have been pretty significant in that the crew reported blue smoke with defined waves in the smoke.

“The visibility was limited so that the attendants in the aft galley could not see to the mid-cabin over-wing exits.

“This is more than a light haze that we debate endlessly about for smoke evacuation.

“Who knows what the by-products are in the hot synthetic Turbine oil.

“That Material Data Sheet has warnings about skin contact and breathing the fumes of the oil, let alone the complication of partial combustion products.

“Bottom line is I think we are looking for a tombstone before anyone with any horsepower is going to take an interest.”

Former pilot Dr Susan Michaelis, a world leading expert on toxic air, who has a PhD on the subject, said the email was “highly significant”.

She said: “This clearly shows aircraft are being allowed to fly in an unairworthy state by the regulators.

“The greatest tragedy is that the industry has known about this problem since the early Fifties but it was mostly masked until the smoking ban came along in the Nineties and people then asked ‘What’s the strange smell?’”

However, last night Boeing said it had cooperated with a number of independent studies since 2007.

A spokesman said: “Boeing’s view is that cabin air is safe. Many independent studies have shown that cabin air is less contaminated than most office buildings.

“Boeing has representatives on many industry groups that are constantly studying the subject of cabin air.

“We are always looking for ways to improve our airplane products and cabin air is one of many subjects that we study.”

In her answer in the House of Lords last month, Baroness Kramer said it was now the responsibility of the European Aviation and Safety Agency to oversee further research.

The Countess of Mar told her the issue “casts a dark reflection on the aviation industry”.

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Tem tanto material sobre isso. Quando começaram a falar do MH 370, achei essa matéria sobre diretiva do FAA para os B777 americanos. Mais de 400 casos de problemas causados pela fiação do IFE, por exemplo.







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