Food for Thought for (very) Frequent Flyers

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Oh fun, as a pilot this is wonderful to read. I wish it had more details. I am not sure why I have to put a mask on 5 days per week?? I only put on the mask if something were to catch fire, or the other guy goes to the bathroom in cruise flight.

The theme is when oil gets into the air system from the oil, which it does drip sometimes, that the fumes can be both short term and long term toxic in two separate ways. Evidence for both sides has been show, both that it is and is not dangerous, however the airlines/transportation industry has followed the its not dangerous side.

It is most likely harder to smell in the cabin, but in the cockpit, it is not uncommon to get the smell ever once in awhile. Pilots knows what it is when they smell it, it matches the described 'gym sock' smell. However pulling out the mask for it is not done at any airline I know. You could tell maintenance about it though.

Modern jets take air from the jet turbine engine to supply air and pressurization to the aircraft. The jet engine is a set of compressor blades, and that very hot compressed air is tapped and supplied to an air conditioning system. I know the plane I fly has two sources, each one is from each engine. One supplies the first half of the plane, and the other the second half of the cabin. The compressed hot air is also used for ANTI ICE in flight and is supplied via a tube across the front of the wing and tail/stab sections of the airplane. These tub areas are the more silver area on the front of the wing.

The cabin heating and air conditioning unit mixes outside air with the compressed air, and supplies it into the cabin. An airplane is a sealed tube like an unopened soda can, with small out flow valves in the rear to keep the PSI of the vessel as desired. Doing this allows the plane to go to 37,000 feet but have an air density, as well oxygen amount, that is equal to being below 10,000 feet and closer to 5,000. I know the plane I fly reaches close to 8 pounds of pressure per sq inch when at 37,000 feet. The valves in the rear keep the airplane within the limits of how many pounds per sq inch the plane can withstand.

The question is, when engine oil comes in contact with this bleed air from the compressor (engine), and is supplied to the cabin, are any health risks presented. There seems to be a growing argument saying yes. The other problem is if this were to be mainstream exposed as true, the entire world fleet of airplanes, would be grounded. The exception I saw mentioned on the topic, is the 787, which uses electric compressors supplied via outside air. The problem is the 787 has many other electrical items, and Boeing really had no choice but to use Lithium Ion batteries, kind of like in a laptop, and as many people have seen on youtube or heard about, LION batteries are highly flammable, and even sometimes catch on fire for no clear reason (youtube laptop or cell phone explosive fire). I would assume most other modern jets, use the same batteries my plane uses, which are NiCad. We also have one small lead acid battery that is only present to keep a small stable power source to the generator units. The Lion batteries in the 787 have now got it globally grounded.

Lots of speculation and unproven ideas in that article. If it is a real risk, why aren't there complaints from flight attendants and even ultra-frequent fliers?

I can't believe this is an aircraft design issue. My furnace has an air exchanger that prevents the combustion air (containing carbon monoxide) from mixing with the warm air circulating through my house. Wouldn't oil or combustion vapors leaking into the air system be cause for an immediate diversion to the nearest appropriate airport and grounding of the aircraft until the issue was fixed?

Also, are pilots allowed to put on masks because of bad smells in the cabin? Again, if it is dangerous fumes there should be a diversion. If it is because the first officer had bean burritos for dinner last night, they are using up their supply that is supposed to be for emergencies.

Tom9999 said:   Lots of speculation and unproven ideas in that article. If it is a real risk, why aren't there complaints from flight attendants and even ultra-frequent fliers?

There has been see this link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aerotoxic_syndrome

Legal precedents

The legal precedent that inhaling oil fumes is harmful was set in the High Court of Australia on the 5 May 2009, in the case Joanne Turner v. Eastwest Airlines. The Australian courts found in favour of Ms. Joanne Turner in her case for compensation against her former employers for injuries resulting from exposure to heated jet engine oils. Ms Turner a former flight attendant with Australia’s Ansett and Eastwest Airlines, was exposed to smoke and fumes resulting from a failed oil seal on a BAe 146 flight between Sydney and Brisbane on 4 March 1992, whilst 5 months pregnant. The court found that Ms Turner was exposed to oil fumes and smoke generated from engine oil that had leaked into a component of the aircraft air supply system called the Auxiliary Power Unit (APU - engine). The failure of the APU oil seal was found to be foreseeable, as was the risk that smoke from the leaking oil would enter the aircraft cabin. The judge found that: “The plaintiff was exposed to pyrolysed Mobil Jet Oil II on 4 March 1992” and “that pyrolysed effects of Mobil Jet Oil II are harmful to the lungs.” The defendant appealed the decision to the New South Wales Court of Appeal and then the High Court of Australia, however subsequently lost both appeals on 1 April 2010 and 3 September 2010 respectively.[28]

In 2011, a former flight attendant is believed to be the first person in the U.S. to settle a lawsuit against the Boeing Co. over what she claimed was faulty aircraft design that allowed toxic fumes to reach the cabin, triggering tremors, memory loss and severe headaches.

The amount and other details of the settlement between former American Airlines worker Terry Williams, a 42-year-old mother of two, and Boeing were not made public as a condition of the agreement.[29]



I can't believe this is an aircraft design issue. My furnace has an air exchanger that prevents the combustion air (containing carbon monoxide) from mixing with the warm air circulating through my house. Wouldn't oil or combustion vapors leaking into the air system be cause for an immediate diversion to the nearest appropriate airport and grounding of the aircraft until the issue was fixed?
someone would be the odd man out, since its already a problem industry wide, they would just seem like the odd man out

Also, are pilots allowed to put on masks because of bad smells in the cabin? Again, if it is dangerous fumes there should be a diversion. If it is because the first officer had bean burritos for dinner last night, they are using up their supply that is supposed to be for emergencies.

the cockpit o2 gets many uses, for example if one person uses the restroom in cruise flight it is required. It holds a large supply of oxygen, and can be refilled any time in a base, long before it is even close to low. I could see a pilot after reading this, just holding the mask to their face when the smell comes out, and reporting it to maintenance upon arrival. If it were a strong smell they may divert, however a hint smell for 30 seconds on takeoff, then gone, its going to be very scrutinized that they came back and landed and the flight canceled, I would think. .


also everything I post is just my opinion, and in NO way related to my job. I speak in no regard to my employer, or any airline for that matter. I merely post my worthless opinion, in my free time, unrelated to my line of work, and not one bit linked to my employer. It is to be taken as an online posters opinion only.



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