French oil manufacturer Nyco claims to have come up with a new jet engine lubricant that will be less harmful to passengers and air crew should an in-cabin fume event occur.
It is aiming to freeze, in the next few months, the formulation of the new oil which will use less-toxic anti-wear additives. Certification will be completed by about April 2013, it says.
Nyco chief executive Eric Piveteau says the oil will be less volatile than existing products, reducing the risk of harm to passenger and crew health when fume events occur. These events occur fairly regularly in all aircraft types with engine bleed air cabin pressurisation systems when the engine oil seals fail and hot oil fumes enter into the air supplied to the cockpit and cabin.
Given another two months beyond the planned programme, Piveteau told the annual meeting of the Global Cabin Air Quality Executive in London this week, he hopes to produce an oil that also has superior anti-wear performance compared with existing products. He also hopes for improved "elastomer compatibility", which means that engine oil seals will last longer than they do at present, lowering oil consumption and cutting the risk of fume events.
Nyco has been working on this issue for many years, as Piveteau explains that however desirable it may be to reduce fume events or fume toxicity "it is not possible to compromise on the oil performance," because the industry will not accept higher engine wear. But, he says, lubricant development is potentially "the only cost-neutral solution" to the airlines' fume problem.
Although Nyco's main market has traditionally been the military, with its very high performance engines, Piveteau is seeing the beginning of a drift by airlines toward the company's products. Icelandair, which operates Boeing 757s - a type which has had its share of fume events - has switched to Nyco oils. Piveteau told the GCAQE meeting: "There is a change happening now. People are no longer saying that [fume events] are not an issue - now they are asking what they can do about it."