Smoke and fume or smell events – usually referred to as ‘cabin air contamination’ – are regarded as a potential serious threat to air safety, as shown by incident reports, and could pose a threat to the health of the crew and passengers. But while our knowledge of such events grows, thanks to the occurrence reports submitted by crews, the availability of such data (reports) needs to be improved, in order to reduce the risk of such events happening again in the future. This is why ECA put together a set of guidelines for aircrews how to respond to fume / smell events.
Here is what you as a crew member need to know:
1. What actually is a fume event? Short definitions of ‘smoke’, ‘fume’ and ‘contaminant’ are a ‘must’ to know for all aircrew.
2. Which symptoms to pay attention to? I.e. the symptoms associated with cabin air contamination are diverse but nervous and respiratory symptoms prevail.
3. Which actions for the crew needs to consider during and after flight operations? E.g. noting down the symptoms, informing the airline, or seeing a doctor as soon as possible (no later than 48h after the event). AND: one of the key actions for the crew is to file an occupational health and safety report.
While the recent studies, released by the European Aviation Safety Agency, have enriched our scientific knowledge about cabin air contamination and its inherent risks, educating crews to adequately respond to any potential fume events will help us further build on that knowledge and gather the necessary data.