European Cockpit Association calls for cabin air research

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The European Cockpit Association has published a position document on the controversial issue of cabin air contamination by engine oil fumes that can incapacitate the crew. It wants more transparent reporting of incidents, better training for pilots on how to handle fume events, and research on the long-term health effects on crew and passengers.

The ECA has said: "In order to assist in quantifying the magnitude of the problem, a comprehensive, open, centralised reporting system should be available to crews. This would facilitate correct reporting and allow monitoring of fume events on European level.

Following the reporting by the crew of a fume event to the maintenance department, improved training and maintenance procedures should include the requirement to report back to the crew on the actions taken.

The issue, says the ECA, is not debatable - it is well-documented as a regular occurrence that has consequences for aircraft safety. The only debatable issue is what to do about it, and how to determine what the long-term health consequences are.

The ECA concludes: "Cabin air contamination by chemicals from the engine oil, is a known problem that can cause short term health effects which compromise flight safety when a fume event occurs. ECA wants to raise awareness with regulatory bodies at EU level that improvements can be made to existing procedures. At the same time ECA calls for continuous development of new technologies that can assist in further reducing the occurrence and effects of fume events. Studies need to be run to identify if long term health effects exist."

The British Air Line Pilots Association said: "Three of BALPA's operational aviation medics were part of the ECA working group that produced the paper. BALPA's own position...is that the involvement of medical and clinical toxicology specialists is very important in this regard. BALPA recently wrote to the UK Health protection agency requesting a position statement and their reply is awaited."