Aircraft Air Quality
It is widely known the air we breathe in the aircraft cabin during flight is recirculated air. What may not be as commonly known is the air that comes through the cabin vents first passes through aircraft engines or the APU.
Contaminated Engine Bleed Air Explained
The problem with this process is the air is not filtered. Because of the way the system is designed there is potential for leaking or spilled engine oil or hydraulic fluid to contaminate the cabin air we breathe. These toxic fumes are not easily identified so we must educate ourselves to be better equipped in knowing the difference between an unpleasant odor and an actual fume event.
IF YOU THINK YOU WERE EXPOSED TO ENGINE OIL OR HYDRAULIC FLUID FUMES
IMMEDIATELY REPORT ONBOARD TO YOUR FFA & THE FLIGHT DECK!
Important things to note:
• Phase of flight, when did you notice the odor?
• Duration, how long did it last?
• What does it smell like?
• Where in the cabin is it strongest?
• Do other crewmembers smell it as well?
• Have all other benign sources been ruled out (i.e. pax carry-ons etc.)?
• Physical symptoms, how are you feeling?
IF YOU FEEL SICK FROM BAD AIRCRAFT AIR:
Toxic cabin air is an industry-wide issue that isn’t frequently talked about.
But you can do your part to help.
Friends Don’t Let Friends Breathe Oil Fumes on the Aircraft:
Join the campaign on this important subject. Money raised goes to a university research team to finish developing a blood test critical to identifying oil fumes if crews and passengers have been exposed to a fume event.
Please GIVE $10 (or something comparable, in any currency). Then, GET 10 more people (Family, friends, Facebook friends, anybody with a pulse...) to do the same. Join the efforts of crewmembers around the world by making a small donation to the researchers developing the oil fumes blood test. No donation is too small.
Support the Cabin Air Safety Act and call your Senator today!
Don’t forget to continue your personal education efforts!
Cabin Fumes Powerpoint Presentation
A Message from Jon Snook, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer
Friday August 11, 2017
I wanted to give you an update on the steps that we are taking to address reports of odor/fumes in the cabin of our A330 aircraft as I know it is of significant concern to many of you.
Here are the facts about the reports we have received:
This year, we have had 21 reports of odor/fumes in the cabin on A330 aircraft and, of those 21 reports, 18 of them were reported on LAX originating flights. We have observed a correlation between those reports and events on the ground when we have “dry motored” the engine. Dry motoring is the process of turning the components of the engine without actually starting it. There are many reasons for doing this including cooling, washing, or performing other maintenance tasks on the engine. LAX happens to be one of the cities where we conduct regular engine washes. We do this to remove contaminant build up which would otherwise degrade engine performance.
What we know from Rolls-Royce guidance, as well as feedback from other operators, is that when engine components are turned, the engine continues to generate oil much as it would do if it were started. However, in the case of an engine that is started, the pressure inside the engine prevents oil from passing through to the bleed air system. In the case of dry motoring, that oil may pass to the bleed air system at which point, it may create a smell that can be described as a “sweaty sock smell.”
How does this make a difference in the cabin?
The air in our cabins comes from re-circulation, air direct from outside the aircraft, and air from the engine. The engine air is known as bleed air and it is used to pressurize and heat the atmosphere in the cabin to ensure it is comfortable for everyone onboard. We believe that it is this bleed air that is likely the cause of many of the odor/fume reports we receive because even though the air in the cabin is fully replaced with new air every two minutes, a tiny trace of oil in the bleed air system of the engine can create an odor that is quite unpleasant.
What are we doing about this?
First, we have temporarily suspended engine washing at LAX. Second, our Flight and Maintenance teams have developed a procedure to turn off engine bleed air and, instead, use APU bleed air to pressurize the cabin during the climb. We will do this whenever we have dry motored an engine on the ground prior to departure. This should significantly reduce reports of this type of odor on our aircraft and will be implemented fully by September 1.
I should clarify that because air is brought in from outside the aircraft, ambient fumes or odors may always manifest themselves in the cabin. For example, brush fires, vog, or exhaust from other aircraft may all be detected at some point during operations, and so it is critical that we try to pinpoint exactly what types of odor/fumes we encounter. Our Maintenance team has provided a form to flight crews that we ask you to complete as soon as possible following an incident, as it will help us to pinpoint the cause. We appreciate your help and support troubleshooting these events when they occur.
The Operations team takes every report of odor/fumes on board very seriously and we will continue to monitor our performance on a daily basis.
As always, thanks for the fabulous job you do serving our guests every day and thanks for reading.