Foreword by David Learmount
1. Decades to disaster
2. In the beginning
3. Shattered dreams
4. What is Aerotoxic Syndrome?
5. A fundamental design flaw
6. A cover-up
7. Health or Wealth – which is paramount?
8. Testimonies & Evidence
9. Lose, Lose
10. The nightmare continues
11. The known, available solutions
12. Beginning, Middle & End
Book Dedication: To the children of Flight XLA 120 on 1 February 2007
“The health of the people should be the supreme law”
On Friday 24 April 2020 UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson quoted,
in Latin, the Roman statesman Cicero
“The greater the challenge, the greater the victory”
Captain Russ Watkins 1978
I only wanted to fly aeroplanes…”
Captain Brian Porter 1977
Foreword by David Learmount
Aerotoxic syndrome exists. But so does systematic denial by the aviation industry and its government backers. As an aviation journalist for 35 years at the time of writing this Foreword, for a long time I believed the industry when it told me, hand on heart, that the dangers to pilot and passenger health of engine oil fumes entering aircraft cabins were dramatically exaggerated and very rare. But eventually I agreed to meet two former airline pilots who had suffered damage and lost their careers to aerotoxic syndrome. I had, however, met others before and had not been convinced, so what made the difference this time? Tristan Loraine and Susan Michaelis provided me with the technical data and evidence of something that had been going on for years – about 50 years.
They informed me about the chemicals involved, the ongoing biochemical research into the damage these can cause to humans, the fume event occurrences and what makes them happen, and the human stories of pilots and cabin crew affected. And through them I met a network of aeromedical specialists and biochemists who were studying the issue in detail. Then I started asking questions again in the industry, but I was much better informed this time. No aircraft or aero-engine manufacturer denies that fumes from engine oil can get into cockpits and cabins, nor do they deny that these ‘fume events’ happen from time to time. They do not deny either that these engine oils contain organophosphate materials that can cause neurological damage in humans. The oil containers even have warnings on them to that effect. The reason the industry and its government backers can keep the lid on this issue is that the burden of proof about the damage these fumes can cause rests with the victims.
The industry answers charges about health damage by denial and dissembling, which the system lets them do because of the rules about where the burden of proof lies. The industry’s lawyers are masters of technical points of law that enable them to claim that the victims have no legal proof of the connection between Aerotoxic Syndrome, a fume event and the symptoms that the victims suffer as a result. The lawyers can argue that the cause might lie elsewhere in the victim’s life, or in their metabolism, and this ‘negative’ allegation is very difficult to disprove. There is a precise parallel here between the legal war fought for years between the tobacco industry and damaged smokers and the medical world who were looking for the proof of a connection between tobacco smoking and lung cancer.
Everybody knew that there was a connection, but the burden of proof was with the victims, and until a precise biomarker could establish that the cancer was initiated by the effects of tobacco-based chemicals in specific individuals who smoked, the industry could go on denying. The only difference between these two cases is one of scale. The health effects of tobacco affected billions of people worldwide, whereas although aircraft fume events happen regularly, they only occur once every several hundred flights. And when they do, some individuals are affected while others are not, because of metabolic differences between individual humans and the frequency of exposure that any individual suffers. The fact that fewer people are involved makes it easier for the industry and government to continue the denial, and more difficult for those damaged to seek any form of redress – or even acknowledgement of their medical condition. It means ordinary doctors are kept in ignorance of the syndrome and its symptoms, making misdiagnosis more likely.
The fact is that, for those who are affected, the effect of aerotoxic syndrome on their lives can be devastating. For that reason it is obscene that the industry washes its hands of the issue, and even worse that governments collude, because there are ways of reducing or even eliminating the risk of airborne fume events. But while denial exists and governments collude with the manufacturers and airlines, these remedies will not be applied. That is what this book is about.
David Learmount, Operations and Safety Editor, Flight International/Global
excerpt from 2011 (Credit: Fact Not Fiction Films).
1. Decades to Disaster
On Monday, 5 August 2019 two passengers, Gayle Fitzpatrick and Stephen McConnon were on a British Airways (BA) Airbus A321 from London to Valencia, Spain for a holiday. But little did they know that their flight would become a flight to hell, as they fought to breathe due to an in-flight ‘Fume event’ accident.
Here is their exact, complete, and unabridged testimony:
“This event, as most of you know, happened on 5 August this year. So just under five weeks ago. BA are trying to fob passengers off with vague lines of “still investigating” and hoping we will forget what happened. Zero customer care. Even less compassion.
Stephen and I were two of 175 passengers on BA422 flying from London Heathrow to Valencia. 1 hour 55 minutes flying time.
During the last ten minutes of flight there was a large bang noise, and then white smoke and fumes started pouring thickly in to the cabin. It was like being in a club, standing on the dance floor when a smoke machine starts pouring out for atmosphere. Except this was on a plane, which was still flying. We couldn’t see two seats in front of us. The cabin crew stopped communicating with passengers from there on in….yes, we had no further communication from them in the most critical of circumstances.
The plane very suddenly started an extremely sharp descent. Cabin crew then donned chemical suits and masks. No oxygen masks came down for passengers. We now know this was because in the event of a fire the deployment of oxygen masks would increase the risk of a mid-air explosion. This was not explained to passengers who became confused and scared understandably. It was completely surreal.
We were relieved when we landed and desperate to get off the plane, but for a further 10 minutes, while the plane cabin was thick with smoke (see video) we were confined as cabin crew couldn’t open the doors for whatever reason. We could hear the sound of several fire engines outside the plane. Panic was beginning to set in. Lots of families on board trying to keep their children calm, despite their own obvious concern and fear.
When the doors were eventually opened, we were directed by the hands (not voices) of cabin crew to jump down the emergency chutes. Some passengers (only a handful) insisted on taking their hand luggage(!!) Most didn’t. Everyone was grateful to get off the plane and breath actual air. Many were crying, disoriented, some nervously laughing, some screaming in terror, and wandering aimlessly in a state of shock.
On the runway, Spanish groundcrew then directed passengers to areas far from the plane. It was clear there was concern it could still explode.
After a period of time elapsed, maybe ten or twenty minutes, buses arrived to take bewildered passengers to the terminal.
Would you believe that after that experience passengers were put through passport control? Again, completely surreal. I cannot overuse surreal enough.
Thereafter passengers were left without communication for nearly four hours….most just sitting around waiting for any communication…and not only about the retrieval of their hand luggage, but hold luggage.
Despite the fact that passengers had been subject to severe levels of thick toxic, white smoke and fumes we received no medical checks or even a bottle of water on arrival or for the hours after….meanwhile British Airways put out a media statement saying they were supporting passengers on the ground. This was a blatant and disgustingly cynical corporate lie.
We know the following facts now, and not directly from BA who say they are “still investigating” …
1. Our pilot landed the plane “blind” as a consequence of the cockpit being completely consumed with the thick white smoke that filled the plane cabin
2. Valencia airport was advised to close the airport ahead of our plane coming in
3. Staff in the airport reported that they had been told our plane was on fire and emergency services deployed
4. The same plane had been grounded twice in June for toxic fume incidents
5. A captain refused to fly our plane in the months preceding due to known issues of it being a “gas chamber”
6. On 6 August a new engine was flown from Prestwick via Toulouse to Valencia to replace the engine which had caught fire due to a failed ball bearing
7. Cabin crew and pilots were advised not to speak with passengers or media about the incident
8. The plane, G-MEDN is now back in service operating as BA1488 London Heathrow to Glasgow
Just a few last points….
Before the LHR flight even took off I noticed a foul, chemical smell. I remarked on this a number of times. We now know other passengers noticed this too and complained to Cabin Crew halfway through the flight. This is known as a Fume Event. Did you know you should formally report this? I didn’t until the last few weeks….
The last few weeks have been a crash course in learning about the insidious secret airlines don’t tell you….we fly being constantly exposed to toxic fumes that provide our breathing air. This “air” which is generated by the very engines that fly our planes contains organophosphates which are known to be carcinogenic. Most of the time these fumes are low level, but on an increasing number of occasions reports are coming in that the levels are dangerous and have led to planes being grounded, emergency evacuations and now a number of cabin crew, pilots and even passengers with life limiting/threatening illnesses and in some cases death.
Airlines have the option to use filtration systems at a cost of £10-30k per plane which would remove the threat to their pilots, Cabin Crew and passengers. There are no filtration systems on planes except the large dreamliners. The air filtration issue has been known by the airline industry for over 50 years. It seems the allure of big money is more important than passenger safety.
BA are trying to fob us off. They hope passengers will forget about the incident above and not come looking for answers, but after that experience I believe we deserve those at the very least. Please retweet and help hold British Airways to account.
If you read this far, thank you and well done”.
2019 © Copyright.
Report from Av Herald
Accident: British Airways A321 at Valencia on Aug 5 2019, smoke on board.
|Scene on board (Photo Credit: Lucy Brown)
|Evacuation in progress (Photo Credit: Lucy Brown):
Welcome to Aerotoxic Syndrome. This accident not only happened to Gayle and Stephen but also to the other 175 passengers and 8 aircrew on that flight – a total of 183 ‘souls on board’.
Every single passenger and aircrew who takes any ‘bleed air’ flight, including you, are potentially affected.
You will discover in this book that there are many more ‘passenger’ than aircrew accounts, this is due to the fact the passengers are generally fit and normal prior to flying and have actually paid good money to be in a confined space with no escape.
But when they find themselves getting sick as a result of a flight they are clearly not “putting it on”, swinging the lead, acting or blaming ‘nocebo’ effects or other nebulous medical reasons – especially when a whole, much larger passenger group are all affected altogether at once; as we shall see again later on with Flight XLA 120 of 1 February 2007.
The depressing truth is that first class and business passengers think that, because they pay lots of extra money, they somehow get or deserve a ‘better class of air to breathe’.
In fact they are all actually breathing exactly the same air as the rest of the passengers and aircrew
This was graphically proven in November 2019, when a first class passenger was made very ill while still on the ground and was off loaded with her husband, along with three cabin crew who would have been equally badly affected.
Who actually wants to be acutely and then chronically sick. Can we all again agree that only a few crazy nutters would do?
You will soon learn that there are shockingly around 1,000,000 frequent flyers and aircrew with Aerotoxic Syndrome in Europe alone. Therefore Gayle and Stephen, two members of the public whose health dramatically changed after their 5 August 2019 flight and unknowingly became the 1,000,001 and 1,000,002 sufferers of Aerotoxic Syndrome.
This illustrates the crazy numbers of what has become a ‘Cover-up game’ for industry, over six long decades.
It is known that, ironically, a senior BBC Panorama and TV producer husband and young family were also on the same Valencia BA flight. But once individual passengers get divided from the flight group, it is virtually both impossible and impracticable to keep tabs on them and their individual health, which from the airlines point of view, they don’t want to do, in any way – as the passengers can soon become an expensive liability.
However, all the time – while reading this book, please do be thinking: ‘Hang on, that could be, or even was me, myself and I…’
As the infamous Darwinian ‘self-gene’ is well and truly at work here, in this epic selfish, money-based cover-up.
Additionally, if you haven’t had any direct experience of the Aerotoxic Syndrome scandal yet, you may forever believe the myth or conspiracy theory that the serious illness from poisoning is all only in a few crazy people’s (professional aircrews) and passengers heads… and blood, hair, toenails, fat, liver and brains.
For now, just imagine that you were one of the 173 other passengers on this particularly terrible flight from London to Valencia, sitting in maybe row 12a, with your vulnerable aged parents and your very young, precious infant family.
This book has been specifically researched for 40 years and written, just for you – fellow airline passenger and aircrew members.
This particular notifiable ‘Accident flight’ of August 2019 featured prominently in a new, latest Cabin Air Quality documentary film ‘Everybody Flies’ (2019). While presenter Mike Powell of the BBC actually ‘starred’ in that movie; meanwhile his colleague BBC Transport Correspondent Tom Burridge calmly reported the continued chronic passenger ill health ‘story’ many months later on 25 February 2020, after yet another separate, but even more serious passenger ‘Fume event’ flight where Burridge summarised his story as:
“The toxic gases that may (sic) be harming aircrew and passengers.”
Couldn’t this summary be considered the most understated, but typically BBC balanced claim ever, of the past 20 years?
Everyone knows that serious, highly visible oil fume events like this formally logged accident, only ever happen several times a day throughout the whole world, as the vast majority of flights appear to be so-called ‘normal’. We will soon discover that any known fundamental design flaw can never be ‘normal’.
The fact remains that these particular ‘accidents’ continue to happen daily, just like car accidents.
The public get hurt and according to the Authorities, there is at last now begrudging acceptance of evidence of acute human ill health, but officially there is still unbelievably ‘No positive evidence of chronic ill health’ after 60 years.
For example, the UK CAA now publish the following helpful information for: ‘Aircraft fume events information for patients’ (sic) past, present and future.’
You are a potential ‘patient’ according to the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority).
But how do pregnant women, babies, minors and older frailer folk make sense of these soothing words and clichés, when the written word of all professional aircrew is not believed concerning an inconvenient illness, caused by exposure to toxic oil fumes in a confined space?
All such fume event accidents go into a deliberately and seemingly intentional lengthy investigation phase (this shows the public that some action is being taken, but always – tomorrow…) But his phase normally lasts for several years before any firm conclusions are published for the confused sick public and lazy journalists who, because they weren’t there or were personally affected, just accept the official report of the now long forgotten trauma of those passengers and crew, who can nor will ever forget.
Official so-called ‘Accident investigators’ try to work out what happened and to whom, and to date have previously and internationally repeatedly demanded the known technical solutions, for example, poison detectors system being fitted, as a minimum solution to prevent further accidents.
Smoke detectors, something which every other public place and private home has fitted as standard and by law.
However, even the UK Air Accident Investigation Branch and other regulators fail to enforce their own recommendations and orders, over many decades now…
So, passengers Gayle & Stephen reported to the BBC still being chronically sick from this random ‘Fume event’ accident flight after 6 months and 20 days. That’s ‘chronic’ by any reasonable doctors’ book, but very, few GP’s will know about this illness, which has over decades become ‘normal’.
Exactly what does chronically happen over six decades to billions (where 4,000,000,000 passengers used to fly every year before Covid-19) of other human beings like you from a little known, yet fundamental design flaw of both unfiltered and unmonitored ‘Bleed air’?
So this sad yet necessary, true, story starts but later in this book, you will be invited to compare Gayle & Stephens comparatively recent ‘story’ with US business woman Robin Montmayeur’s Statement of 4 June 2003, following her 13 December 2000 ‘fume event’ flight on an Airbus A 320… and countless other true ‘stories’…
Be prepared, because it gets a lot worse but very gradually and slowly, a bit like most ‘low dose’ toxic exposures over many years and decades.
This book is a true record of fact, yet it will likely be read more like a bizarre, sci fi horror story.
Once upon a time…