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Flight attendant welcomes Senate report on cabin fumes
STORIES IN THIS SECTION
  • Petrol inquiry finds oil companies manipulate prices
  • Flight attendant welcomes Senate report on cabin fumes
  • WA jobless rate encouraging: minister
  • From AAP
    13oct00

    A FLIGHT attendant suing Ansett over exposure to toxic fumes has welcomed a Senate committee report that found fumes aboard British Aerospace 146 aircraft were making people sick.

    Judy Cullinane, 35, has been on unpaid sick leave from Ansett since November 1997 when she fell ill during a five-day stint aboard BAe 146 aircraft.

    Ms Cullinane said she became semi-paralysed and was barely able to speak during flights to and from Alice Springs. She said she was forced to stop work because of ongoing medical problems including extreme fatigue and nausea.

    The Senate Transport References Committee handed down its report today which found there was no need to ground the 31 BAe-146 aircraft flown by Australian passenger and freight airlines, but recommended mandatory modifications.

    The committee called on the Civil Aviation Safety Authority to take the problem of cabin fumes more seriously and introduce regulations for monitoring cabin and cockpit air quality, such as a standard for checking engine seals.

    Ms Cullinane said the report vindicated her claim that cabin fumes were causing illnesses.

    "What has come out of the Senate is a great step forward for all the flight attendants and pilots Australia-wide who are suffering the same problems," she said.

    She said there were at least 15 other flight attendants who had been overcome by fumes in WA alone, 11 of whom were in discussions with lawyers with a view to suing their employers.

    Ms Cullinane said doctors had advised her she was likely to suffer ongoing health problems.

    "I still have trouble with my memory and my coordination, and I still get very bad nausea, (I get) disoriented and confused," she said.

    "It hasn't gone away - the problems I'm suffering now are the problems I suffered from right from the beginning."

    Her lawyer Hayden Stephens said the information contained in the Senate report had boosted his client's claim and would be used in the forthcoming court case, expected to be listed for trial within 12 months.

    Mr Stephens said Ansett had known about the cabin fumes problem since 1992 but had ignored it.

    "In my opinion this report is one of the most important in civil aviation history," he said.

    "It raises real alarming questions, questions which we say Ansett and other interested parties must answer."

    He said Ms Cullinane's claim was being made on the basis of loss of wages and pain and suffering, and if awarded, damages would be "substantial".

    Her claim is a test case for a number of similar claims around Australia.

    Ansett said it had been working on the cabin fumes problem for years and the Senate committee report had recognised the work it had put into finding a solution.

    "The committee has recognised that Ansett's done more than anyone to address the issue and our 146 aircraft have already undergone significant modifications," a spokesman said.

    These included the installation of improved oil filters on 146 engines and auxiliary power units to eliminate the problem of oil leaking into the air-conditioning systems. The air distribution system in the cabins had also been reconfigured to provide better air flow.

    He said government laboratories had been used to independently analyse air samples taken by flight attendants mid-flight, and no contaminants had been found that even approached safety thresholds.

    The spokesman said Ansett's 12 BAe 146 aircraft were flying safely and there were no plans to ground the fleet.


        see WA Times Report

        see Senate Report

         Download ZIP file (BAe146Fumes.zip - 244 kb) 

            containing all the Parliamentary submissions.


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    ISSUE 1969Sunday 15 October 2000

      BAe attacked on jet safety risk
    By Tim Clark and Martin Bentham


     

    External Links
     
    > Discussion: Air Safety- Bae 146 cabin air quality [4 Oct '00] - Australian Parliament Online
     
    > Senate - Parliament of Australia
     
    > Have you been exposed to toxic fumes?- International Transport Workers Federation Civil Aviation
     
    > ITWF
     
    > BAE Systems
     


     BRITISH Aerospace aircraft with dangerous oil leaks have been flying for more than 10 years, according to an Australian Senate committee, which accuses the company of an "incredibly casual" attitude to safety.

    In a report, the Australian committee says that the BAe 146, three of which are used by the Royal Flight to carry the Queen and the Prime Minister around the world, is "not airworthy" and should be grounded. The report says that leaks, which cause cabin air to be contaminated with toxic vapour, have occurred on more than 700 occasions. In at least two cases the problem was so severe that pilots became incapacitated.

    The committee's finding comes less than two months after Michael Meacher, the environment minister, announced a British inquiry into the same problem in response to complaints from pilots and Mps. More than 300 BAe 146 aircraft are in operation worldwide, including at least 100 in Europe. Among airlines that use the four-engine jet are British Airways, KLM and Aer Lingus.

    It is estimated that as many as 40,000 passengers and aircrew could be at risk. British Aerospace, which is now known as BAE Systems after a merger last year, denied that safety was being jeopardised. It said the BAe 146 was "one of the safest aircraft in the world".

    The Australian Senate report alleges that faulty engine seals allow fumes from a lubricant oil to enter the aircraft cabin through the air conditioning system. The oil vapour contains the chemical Tricesylphosphate (TCP), an organophosphate that is thought to cause disorders of the nervous system.

    Senator John Woodley, the Australian committee's chairman, said the contamination breached three international aviation regulations and accused British Aerospace of failing to take safety concerns seriously enough. He said: "In the light of what British Aerospace has known for at least 10 years, and probably longer, about the leaking oil fumes I think that their behaviour and response to this problem has been incredibly casual."

    The Senate report was commissioned after more than 100 Australian aircrew complained of a smell like "old burnt socks" in the cabin, followed by a number of symptoms such as dizziness, vomiting, head pressure, and irritation to the eyes, nose, and throat. There have been similar problems elsewhere, including an incident last November in which the two pilots of a Swedish BAe 146 were forced to put on oxygen masks. The captain's report described a "feeling of sickness", adding that he "very rapidly became worse and worse, feeling dizzy and groggy despite the oxygen".

    Both the Swedish air accident investigation board, which described the incident as "extremely serious", and the airline consider that a crash would have occurred if the pilots had failed to put on their oxygen masks. British pilots have reported similar problems.

    Shane Enright, a spokesman for the International Transport Workers Federation, said passengers were also at risk. He gave a warning that some could be experiencing the effects of toxic poisoning months or even years after inhaling the fumes.

    Paul Tyler, the Liberal Democrat MP for North Cornwall, is campaigning on cabin air safety. He said the Australian report was the first official confirmation of the risks of contamination on the BAe 146, which should prompt the Government to consider grounding the aircraft.

    He said: "Organophosphates are very dangerous chemicals and if they are entering the cabin in vapour form it could have very serious consequences. There have been cases where pilots have been on the verge of blacking out and have needed oxygen. There are also cumulative neurological and physical effects, which could also be very dangerous. We cannot afford to take risks any longer."

    Mike Peters, a spokesman for BAE Systems, said flights would continue. He said: "The BAe 146 is one of the safest aircraft in the world. It is in service around the world and is fully certificated in every country. It would not have a certificate to fly unless it had met the stringent regulations which are set in each country."

    31 July 2000: [International] Concorde diverted in scare over fuel smell
    24 July 2000: Concorde grounded after cracks are found in wing
    19 November 1997: Engines fail on jet used by royals
    6 May 1996: Leaking fuel forces Concorde to turn back

     



     NATIONAL POLITICS 
    printer version email to a friend

    MPs hit out over oil fumes in jets Tribute turns to trouble as Bradman's good name is defended Party Girls come under spotlight in new Labor history

    By JOSH GORDON
    CANBERRA

    Friday 13 October 2000

    A parliamentary report has attacked the Civil Aviation Safety Authority for failing to act on oil fumes infiltrating some jets.

    The report was produced by a Senate committee after an inquiry initiated in July last year.

    It said engine oil fumes leaking into the passenger sections and cockpits of BAe-146 aircraft could have breached at least three civil aviation regulations and criticised the authority for dismissing concerns about the aircraft raised by its own staff in a previous report.

    The inquiry heard that flight crew had suffered headaches, vomiting, weakness, breathing problems, tremors, loss of consciousness and partial paralysis after alleged exposure to fumes in BAe-146 jets.

    Committee chairman John Woodley said he found the evidence provided by CASA and the aircraft manufacturer, British Aerospace, that the aircraft was safe "unconvincing".

    "The problem is described by some specialists as aerotoxic syndrome and warrants further extensive clinical and technical investigation," Mr Woodley said.

    The report recommends that CASA make air filters compulsory to improve cabin air quality on all models of commercial passenger aircraft and that BAe-146 aircraft suffering from oil leaks be grounded until the problem is fixed.

    A flight attendant suing Ansett over exposure to toxic fumes welcomed the report.

    Judy Cullinane, 35, has been on unpaid sick leave since November, 1997, when she fell ill during a five-day stint aboard BAe-146 aircraft.

    Ms Cullinane said she became semi-paralysed and was barely able to speak during flights to and from Alice Springs. She said she was forced to stop work because of medical problems, including extreme fatigue and nausea. Doctors had told her she was likely to suffer ongoing health problems.

    Her lawyer, Hayden Stephens, said the information contained in the Senate report had strengthened his client's claim and would be used in the court case, expected within 12 months.

    An Australian company, National Jet Systems, a passenger and freight operator in regional Australia, defended the aircraft against the concerns raised in the report.

    Captain Siebert of National Jet Systems told the inquiry: "NJS is in agreement with the CASA assessment ... that the BAe-146 meets all airworthiness regulatory requirements."

    The CASA board said yesterday it was "deeply concerned" at the Senate findings and that it would refer the case to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

    The board also said it was considering whether any action would be taken against senior employees.

    Tribute turns to trouble as Bradman's good name is defended Party Girls come under spotlight in new Labor history

     
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