As non aircrew still continue to claim that there is ‘no evidence’ that human exposure to toxic oil fumes in a confined space causes ill health – it has been decided to publish a series of 6 blogs on how a BAe 146 pilot eventually discovered the cause of his severe chronic ill health.
John Hoyte was a commercial pilot for nearly 30 years and co-authored ‘Aerotoxic Syndrome: Aviation’s Darkest Secret’ published by Pilot Press in 2014. His blogs will be published once a month over the next five months – concluding on Sunday 22nd May 2016 @ 1700 UTC with a ‘Statement’ held by a lawyer since 2007. The blog will expose what happens to professional aircrew when they are grounded with chronic ill health. As passengers (including children) breathe the same air, they too experience identical ill health.
We all recall a few life changing, seminal moments. These occasions are often ground breaking – for example, where were you when you heard that JFK had been shot dead; Princess Diana had died or about 9/11?
In my life, this defining occasion was a mobile (cell) call on a January morning in 2006 from Captain Tristan Loraine, a serving BA (British Airways) pilot and BALPA (British Airline Pilots Association) representative who called whilst I was about to do the family shop outside Tesco’s entrance, Warwick. He asked if, as a former BAe 146 pilot and then BALPA member, I would be prepared take part in a university study – into airline cabin air?
I had little else to do as a prematurely medically grounded BAe146 training captain, aged 51. I had been preparing for a driving test in order to become an AA driving instructor – my new career! This felt right, as my daughter would soon be 17 years old and begin driving; it felt like a new skill I could easily learn, with similar disciplines to airline flying, which I could still relate to or at least, I thought I could…
I had read worrying reports as early as 2000 about there being a ‘problem’ with the BAe 146 cabin air in Private Eye and how exposure to organophosphates, similar to that found in farmers’ sheep-dip and Gulf war soldiers, affected both aircrew and passenger health. This was confirmed by a BALPA conference in London, 2005. But none of this was something which I thought concerned me; surely experts had a duty to notify professional aircrew and passengers? On reflection, in the later part of 2005, I realised that I had become extremely unwell since a frightening health episode in a German supermarket (not Tesco’s!) in the spring of 1990.
Within 6 months of flying the BAe 146, I realised that my once excellent health had left me and I was now feeling more like a zombie or in a ‘vegetable like state’. However I had to persevere, act my part and fly with the severe disability which I had logically put down to permanent night flying. ‘Jet lag’ could not be a factor, as I only ever did short haul.
I had been working nonstop, first as a night-flying pilot for TNT and then flying for Flybe as day-flying pilot on the BAe 146 for 16 years. I had my first ‘failed safe’ in 2004, then again forever and finally in 2005.
My last flight was actually on 30th June 2005, so after six months I was searching for a diagnosis that had caused my apparent embarrassing failure for grounding myself. This process was also necessary in order to get a ‘Loss of license’ insurance payment of around £75,000 which should help me to start again and hopefully fire up a new career, leaving me and my long suffering family with a fraction of my potential earnings – that was my plan and the theory, anyway.
People should ask themselves how they would react if a stranger randomly called to ask if they would take part in university research? You may feel defensive; worried about what might happen or what others might do with your data…
In January 2006 I didn’t know anything about Captain Loraine who had requested me to take part in the research; however knowing that BA captains and BALPA representatives are not the types of people to make random, nuisance phone calls, I decided it was my professional Health & Safety duty to ‘go for it’ and agreed to take part; I felt I had – no choice.
Captain Loraine would become a lifelong friend, who not only saved my life, but countless others.
Q: If someone cold called to invite you to take part in some university research – would you? Y/N
Captain Tristan Loraine of BA & BALPA pre 2006
Small print: This blog is a true and accurate account of a Public Interest issue of what happened to a professional pilot ten years ago, but it is not a legally ‘sworn testimony’ – as to date, no living aircrew has ever been allowed to present their evidence to a UK public Court of law concerning exposure to toxic cabin air; there is – ‘no evidence’?
Please feel free to share, to serve others…