A few months back I googled the registration of the Eurowings A319 I was about to board and gulped at the number of fume incidents that the aircraft had been involved in. What can you do as a passenger though?
Get a fume mask...preferably a P95 rated mask, and keep it with you. I fly in the back 8 times a month commuting on a transcon and don’t fly without one handy now. I got fumed last week by an A321. The airline has switched turbine oils to one that no longer smells like dirty socks, but rather magic markers when it gets sucked into the bleeds and pyrolized. I was sleeping (redeye) and was awoken by the overpowering marker smell. I put my mask on the remainder of the flight. Everyone else was asleep and no one had markers out. Eyes, nose, throat burned the rest of the day. Had a nasty headache. I sure hope this issue gets fixed at some point soon.
Not a bad idea at all. I guess the key is keeping the mask handy.
Shouldn't the pilots involved insist this aircraft is taken out of service until the source is found? The CAA or AAIB could too (hint) if it reaches them.
I don't think the pilots are the decision makers here, unfortunately.
I have a respirator that works much better, but I'm not commuting around with that thing. The seal on a simple cheap P/N99/95 mask isn't great, so there is some leakage in the inhalation. And a P95 rated mask will filter 95% of particulates and is ok for oil based pollutants. N99 is the other option, filtering 99% but not suitable for oil based pollutants. In my referenced fume exposure, I had inhaled some fumes prior to waking up and prior to getting the mask on. Obviously some level of inhalation has to occur at the onset of fumes in the detection phase. I have heard that the organophosphates can get on your clothes/skin/eyes as well, though inhalation constitutes the bulk of the introduction of the chemicals into the bloodstream. When I'm up front or in the jumpseat I get a nice seal with a full O2 mask/goggles that covers my eyes/nose/mouth. When I'm in the back, I can't do much, so a little mask will at least provide some level of protection and filtration. It may not be 100%...but in a career of being exposed to this stuff (it's cumulative), I prefer to stack my deck as best as I can and give myself the best odds.
95% less of that stuff not entering your nose and lungs is a hell of a lot better than getting a full dose of all of it.
Ok, reading this - the flight was within minutes (or maybe less) of having nobody conscious at the controls.
How is this plane not being torn apart by the AAIB (or whomever does investigations in Cyprus) to determine a proper root cause and make some useful recommendation to fix it?
To me, this certainly is close enough to an actual disaster to warrant a proper investigation - an clearly this is an issue with at least this aircraft type and some useful recommendations could be applied to others as well.
Unfortunately aerotoxin incidents never seem to get taken all that seriously by the authorities, which is maddening. In one of the cases where AvHerald was trying to investigating (the Spirit one where the captain died) the FAA spokesperson was straight-out stonewalling and doing all they could to obstruct:
The FAA is committed to protecting the safety and health of passengers and cabin crews on our nation's airlines. Studies have indicated that cabin air is as good as or better than the air found in offices and homes. The FAA believes that the cabin environment in the vast majority of commercial flights is safe. However, we are concerned that if certain mechanical failures occur, the cabin environment may contain contaminants. Airlines are required to report fume events to the FAA.
In total disbelief about this statement, which essentially said air in the cabin is as good or even better than the air in any home or office, we decided to deepen our research into the FAA oversight. We filed another FoIA request to the FAA now requring all occurrence reports as well as all FAA initiated supervision activities of the airline between Jan 1st 2015 and Jun 30th 2018.
On Oct 31st 2018 we received the reply to this FoIA request listing a total of 46 occurrences, however, no supervision activities were listed. We noticed immediately, all the fume events we knew about, even the fume events we had reported to the FAA, were missing in that list, only other occurences were listed. We inquired therefore: "I did notice that a lot of occurrences were not listed that we know about and even inquired with the FAA (Kathleen Bergen) about during 2018, notably all fume events are not listed. Is this outside your Data Systems Branch and tracked by some other office (and we are going to receive that list with a different mail), or what is the reason for this?"
FAA spokesman Lynn Lunsford replied: "Your request asked for occurrences, so she provided you with a list of all coded occurrences. The other events you mentioned might not have been coded as occurrences. It's possible that they might be able to find them with a more specific search. It's also possible that the information was reported through a voluntary safety information-sharing program such as ASAP. If that were the case, those records are exempt by law from disclosure."
We argued again that in particular this occurrence of Jul 17th 2015 was officially reported at least one time via the flight crew, likely was also officially reported by ATC Boston and was a serious reportable incident by the fact that both flight crew needed to don their oxygen masks with one being completely and the other nearly incapacitated and as such must have been reported by the airline.
We raised additional questions: "What does the FAA do with fume events? Are reports about such events all dismissed and thrown away? How many fume events, with or without injuries (please detail) have the FAA investigated in 2015-2017 (detail per year please) and have issued a final rule? How many of these fume reports 2015-2017 (per year) have been reported to the NTSB, how many of those were rated incidents, serious incidents or accidents?"
Lynn Lunsford replied, in reference to the FAA statement sent on May 5th 2018 by Kathleen Bergen: "After considering your additional questions, our previous statement stands. Good luck with your story."
We made a last attempt with respect to this statement essentially stating: "Studies have indicated that cabin air is as good as or better than the air found in offices and homes." and confronted both Lynn Lunsford and Kathleen Bergen with this FAA document:
Aircraft Cabin Bleed Air Contaminants: A Review by Gregory A. Day, Civil Aerospace Medical Institute, Federal Aviation Administration
This paper alone makes clear that the FAA statement "Studies have indicated that cabin air is as good as or better than the air found in offices and homes." does not hold water. On page 3 for example, and this was argued by us, the paper states, that the concentration of carbondioxide on board of aircraft had been determined to range between 519 and 4902ppm with an average of 1404ppm. In comparison, the concentration in office buildings averages at 400ppm. Many more papers to that theme are available.
Lynn Lunsford again responded: "We've said all we are going to say you on the matter. The FAA is not going to make anybody available for interviews. Good luck with your story."