Aircraft fume events can be dangerous and lead to exposure to Organo Phosphates which come from engine oils burnt and passed into the aircraft air system through broken seals or other engine faults. These fumes are potentially hazardous to human health and can be carcinogenic. Not all unpleasant smells on an aircraft will be dangerous but if you have any doubt as to whether you have been exposed to such substances you should react as though you have.
In the event that you are involved in a fume event whilst operating, or even when flying as a passenger, you should take the following action:
- If you are operating the aircraft you should respond in accordance with your company SOP’s etc taking all action necessary to ensure the safety of the aircraft, passengers and crew. In some cases, it may be necessary to go on to oxygen and even divert.
- Once the aircraft is safely on the ground, and after you have obtained any emergency medical assistance needed, you should complete and submit your incident reports as legally and operationally required.
- If possible pull the CVR and secure it as part of the evidence.
- You should keep personal copies of all the reports.
- You should make detailed notes of the event in particular the following matters -
- Day, date, time and flight number
- Aircraft details
- Names and contact details of all crew, and what they say they smelt, saw or experienced.
- Details of any passengers affected (if any)
- Whether medical assistance was called to the a/c
- Details of the incident. Describe the smells and what, if anything, was seen i.e. smell of stale cheese and a fine mist.
- Details of what steps you took to deal with the incident.
- Details of what you saw smelt or sensed and what was reported to you.
- Follow the NHS care pathway. Go and see your doctor and advise them of what happened. The NHS care pathway is available at https://www.caa.co.uk/uploadedFiles/CAA/Content/Standard_Content/Passengers/Before_you_fly/Health/NHS%20CARE%20PATHWAY.pdf it may be necessary for you to provide blood and urine samples.
- Read and consider the information in the CAA cabin air contamination information sheet for patients available at
- Report the event to us at the IPA and, if possible, send us copies of any relevant reports.
- If you need any further assistance or advice do not hesitate to call the IPA.