A US Airways Boeing 767-200, registration N251AY performing flight US-1041 from Saint Thomas (US Virgin Islands) to Charlotte,NC (USA) with 174 passengers, was on approach to Charlotte, when the crew reported a number of passengers and cabin crew had noticed some odour on board shortly after takeoff and were now suffering from headache and nausea raising the alert of a possible carbon monoxide poisoning. The airplane continued for a safe landing on Charlotte’s runway 23 and was received by about a dozen ambulances at the gate. 8 passengers were checked and treated on scene by medical staff, but were able to catch their connecting flights, 7 crew members were taken to a local hospital as a precaution.
US Airways reported, that the initial suspect of carbon monoxide did not verify, the cause of the odour and nausea is under investigation. The airplane has been taken out of service.
In March 2010 US Airways confirmed, that engine oil had leaked through a faulty seal into the bleed air supplying the air conditioning system.
On December 18th 2016 The Aviation Herald learned, that the captain of the flight died as result of the circumstances at the occurrence and its aftermath, the first officer is permanently injured and has lost his medical as result of the occurrence. As result The Aviation Herald re-rated the occurrence from incident to accident.
According to court documents the crew had performed flight US-1018 from Philadelphia,PA (USA) to Saint Thomas, the flight had been uneventful. On the next sector US-1041 the aircraft was enroute, when the purser entered the cockpit to provide the flight crew with meals and asked the pilots whether they felt alright. Both crew looked at each other in puzzlement, then noticed that their eyes were “quite red”. Only at that point they realized that they were experiencing “some basic symptoms of headache, sore throat, a little bit of stiffness in the neck.” Both pilots stated, that they never observed any odour in the cockpit nor was there any visible haze or smoke. The flight attendants reported that there was a random odour in the cabin, all cabin crew observed the “dirty socks type slash old gym bag, dirty laundry type smell”, that occurred first during the climb out of Saint Thomas. The pilots reported, that in the later stages of the flight they felt fatigue, wooziness and grogginess and had the feeling of needing to concentrate much more than usual to perform the landing, which was done by the first officer, pilot flying for the sector. In the later stages of the flight the flight crew sent an ACARS message to their dispatch to request medical examination for the entire crew. After landing the flight attendants made an announcement to passengers that paramedics were available in case anyone experienced unusual symptoms, a number of passengers took up on that offer. Paramedics checked out both pilots and immediately put them on oxygen and took their vital signs. The entire crew was then taken to a hospital, which found elevated levels of carboxyhemoglobin, that was still substantial above normal after having been on oxygen for 2.5 hours. The headache got worse and lasted for about a week, the sore throat, red eyes and stiffness lasted for a week to 10 days, the fatigue and grogginess never went away. Subsequent medical examination revealed reduction of respiratory pulmonary functions. Both flight crew never returned to fly as pilots, both pilots had their medicals cancelled.
On Dec 18th 2016 The Aviation Herald received note that the captain had died as the aftermath of the occurrence. The note concluded: “I’m writing to tell you that the world lost a great man. And I’m also writing to ask you to honor his life in whatever way you can – say a prayer, tell a joke (he was big on jokes), support a friend who needs support, convince your union to donate funds for the oil fumes research, do the world some kindness – because he was a kind, gentle, and brave soul, and his life matters.”
On Dec 19th 2016 a deepened research identified the occurrence flight had indeed been performed on Jan 16th on N251AY (rather than Jan 17th N255AY according to information available on Jan 18th 2010).
On Mar 17th 2010 the FAA reported that on Mar 16th 2010 N251AY performing flight US-985 from Charlotte,NC (USA) to Montego Bay (Jamaica) needed to return to the gate after an electrical odour was noticed on board during taxi. Two faulty aft door seals were identified, which together with a strong tail wind permitted engine exhaust into the aircraft. 9 people, two pilots, 5 flight attendants and two passengers, were taken to a Charlotte hospital with symptoms consistent with exposure to toxic fumes.
The FAA continued on Mar 17th 2010, that the aircraft involved in US-985, tail 251, had also been involved in flight US-1041 of Jan 16th 2016 and in two flights to Puerto Rico on Dec 28th 2009 and Dec 30th 2009. On both flights in December 2009 there had been hydraulic leaks, crew members felt unwell but were not taken to hospitals.
The Association of Flight Attendants reported on Mar 17th 2010, that eight pilots and cabin crew members, including all but one crew members of flight US-1041 of Jan 16th 2010, did not return to work following three fume events on this aircraft in December 2009 and January 2010. The crew members are suffering from symptoms consistent with exposure to toxic fumes. The union was skeptical that faulty aft door seals would explain the occurrences.
On Dec 19th 2016 a check of both FAA incident databases as well as NTSB investigation lists revealed, that neither of the four occurrences are listed in either database, neither database contains any entry at any time involving N251AY
Read the full Av Herald report here