The solution for the problem that didn’t exist

BAE Systems, in partnership with Quest International, look as if they have come up with a brilliant solution to a real problem – contaminated cabin air.

But if you had asked BAE the day before the 15 September press conference that launched this new system (called AirManager) whether contaminated cabin air was a problem, they would have said it was not – or at least not one of any significance.

When I asked – at the press conference – why BAE had produced a solution for a problem that does not exist, the response was accurate and well-rehearsed.

Not the whole truth, maybe, but true. The new system, says BAE, will improve the quality of cabin air, and offering “improvement” is a sufficient incentive for installing this equipment. They have a “duty of care”, the company said. How strange that, in previous discussion of this subject, that expression was not evoked.

If the companies’ claims for the technical capabilities of AirManager are completely accurate, the improvement would indeed be dramatic.

Most of the media, following the press conference, have hyped one very important benefit: this system kills bacteria and viruses of all kinds.

With a swine flu pandemic predicted to sweep the Northern Hemisphere this winter, maybe an aeroplane kitted out with AirManager could be one of the safest places on the planet. 

The system, originally designed for medical premises, literally sterilises the air, and destroys odours too.

But what of toxic organophosphates that enter the cabin via the engine bleed air pressurisation system when engine oil seals fail?

It will deal with those, too, promises the system’s inventor, David Hallam of Quest.

But BAE and the UK Government have told us that events involving oil-based organosphosphate fumes/mists getting into cabin air have been incredibly rare, and when they happen it is not at harmful levels.

I was informed at the press conference that it is more or less a coincidence that the first two aircraft types that have been fitted with this clever invention are the two that have suffered “fume events” more commonly than any others: the BAE Systems 146/Avro RJ series and the Boeing 757.

Maybe we should just be grateful that, finally, it looks as if a viable solution to contaminated cabin air has been found?

No, not good enough. The rights of crew and passengers whose health has already been ruined by neurotoxin fume events have to be properly recognised. The same treatment should apply to those whose health has yet to be damaged by flying in aircraft that suffer unfortunate fume events while their aircraft is awaiting fitment of AirManager (or any other worthy competitor that emerges).

Within a month or two of today, Professor Clement Furlong of the University of Washington, Seattle, will have identified the biomarkers that scientifically link sickness in passengers and crew to aircraft fume events. Then the industry’s lawyers will no longer be able to rely on legal technicalities to avoid facing reality.

At least the launch of AirManager is a sign that reality is beginning to be faced in a practical and beneficial way.   



3 Responses to The solution for the problem that didn’t exist

  1. John Hoyte 9 October, 2009 at 9:06 am #

    So at last we have an admission that the bleed air we have been breathing – needs a bit of a clean?

    They would never admit to having organophosphates (OP’s) in the passenger cabin – as they are deadly nerve agents – so instead they ‘claim’ to target the viruses and ‘publically known’ nasties.

    If this system can actually deal with a broken engine seal and mass release of OP’s, then it should be a MANDATORY / URGENT fit, not an ‘optional extra’.

    What has happened to our intelligence, sense of urgency and honesty?

    The public have no idea what is going on under their noses. It all stinks and the aviation industry knows it. for more information.

  2. BP vandenBorn 27 October, 2009 at 4:53 pm #

    On some recent European scheduled flights I did some actual CO2 measurements.
    During taxiing the readings were between 1600 ppm till 3000+,ppm
    During flight it dropped to approx 1200ppm.

    Comfort zone are readings below 1000ppm

    we may as well start discussing the refresher rate.

    rgds BP Vandenborn

  3. Alexis Svenn 18 January, 2011 at 3:36 pm #

    Its is about time that the authorities started accepting that there is a very real issue here and allowed some sort of class action take place. This is just so indicative of a conspiracy to cover up the truth/