Cabin-air treatment system suffers early in-service problems

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BAE Systems has admitted that early customers have encountered problems with its Quest AirManager cabin-air treatment system, launched in September 2009 for the Avro RJ and British Aerospace 146.

Lufthansa CityLine has suspended the installation of AirManager in its RJ85 fleet, having reported an increase in cabin 'smell' or 'fume' events, associated with engine oil and de-icing fluid contaminants, in aircraft fitted with the system.

BAE insists AirManager remains "a step change" in cabin-air treatment technology, but says the system will not "mask" a smell or fume event, and says it is working with customers to resolve the problem.

AirManager is new in terms of technology, and unique in that it is fitted in trunking delivering engine compressor bleed-air for cabin ventilation and pressurisation. Only recirculated air has previously been treated or filtered - bleed air has not.

The system is available for any aircraft type, but the first installations have been prepared for the RJ and 146 series, as well as Rolls-Royce-powered Boeing 757s, which have suffered the highest incidence of bleed-air contamination by toxic organophosphates from compression-heated engine oil additives.

UK-based air treatment specialist Quest says the system processes cabin air in two stages: the first sees the air passed through an electrical field, known as a 'close-coupled' field, which "eliminates smells and breaks down and destroys airborne pathogens, contaminants and toxins".

Particulates pick up an electrical charge as they pass through the air-treatment unit. The treated air, and recirculated air, is drawn through a high air-flow filter that attracts the charged particulates and traps them.

Lufthansa CityLine, which says it accepted the systems without testing them itself because it wanted to cope quickly with the regular 'smell' incidents suffered in its RJ85 fleet, is testing AirManager, hoping to understand and correct the problems.

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