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International Aircraft Cabin Air Conference - Programme 2017


On behalf of all our sponsors and partners, welcome to the Aircraft Cabin Air Conference 2017. We are delighted to be the first conference to take place in the new Imperial College facilities you are visiting. I am certain that over the next two days, our diverse range of speakers will provide you with a unique and greater insight into the issue of contaminated air on aircraft.

I organised the last major conference held on this topic back in 2005 for the British pilot union BALPA. Twelve years ago, Pall Aerospace were part sponsors, so I am delighted they have again chosen to be part of this conference where they will also present their technical achievements over the last decade of R&D. Twelve years on from the last conference, the theme is much the same but the science and understanding of the issue has vastly improved and today we are much closer to an effective resolution of the problem.

I became involved in this issue in 2001 when I was a Captain with British Airways whilst fying the Boeing 757 and Boeing 767. At the time, I was a Health & Safety representative for the UK pilot union BALPA and part of my duties involved dealing with long-term sick pilots. A fellow Captain phoned me and informed me that he had experienced a number of exposures to contaminated air in the aircraft he few and was being ill health retired by the company. He believed that the exposures to oil fumes we were experiencing were a serious health and fight safety issue. He mentioned the word ‘organophosphate’, a word I had never heard of and asked me to investigate the issue. I have been doing so ever since.

Over my sixteen year journey, I have de-briefed more than a thousand crews and passengers over 6 continents who have had contaminated air exposures. I have heard their concerns about fight safety being compromised; a reluctance to report events; pilots not using emergency oxygen when the air was suspected of being contaminated; crews becoming impaired and incapacitated; their desire to have a defnitive medical test to confrm exposure to one or more of the contaminated air ingredients and their collective desire that this issue be resolved for the beneft of all in aviation. Some of these crews and passengers have lost their health and their livelihoods and some are no longer with us.

I have seen the misinformation put out by those who fear the consequences of contaminated air; I have witnessed the vested interests at work; the denial and the fear of litigation. I have sat on aerospace and Government committees; briefed regulators and safety agencies; met and discussed the issue with lubricant manufacturers, politicians, aircraft and engine manufacturers, press, doctors, scientists, union leaders and countless others. I have also made three documentaries and a feature flm on the issue. 

I have heard all sides of the debate. I have met many people who lack the expertise and knowledge of the issue, yet are empowered to make key corporate or operational decisions in these matters. I have heard it said that contaminated air events are some form of global mass hysteria; it’s all linked to the contraceptive pill or something a person ate. On the other side, I have heard it called the asbestosis of the skies or aviation’s biggest cover-up.

Having experienced the fight safety consequences of exposure, I suffered the health effects frst hand and lost my own career to repeated exposure to contaminated air at the age of 44. I know it is a very real issue and one that has to be addressed.

I love aviation, I love what it has achieved and I miss the job I once had but the simple reality is that aviation has a design faw in providing breathing air on aircraft as unfltered bleed air from engines. The original passenger jet aircraft like the Boeing 707, DC-8, Convair 880/990 and VC-10 were designed not to use bleed air directly for pressurisation and air-conditioning and like many things in life – the frst ideas are often the best.

The Boeing 787, with its revolutionary bleed free architecture, is without doubt the only sensible solution for future aircraft design. The crews who work on the 787 tell me it is a whole new world compared to other aircraft. I believe all current ‘bleed air’ aircraft should have an effective fltration system and warning systems installed to minimise as much as possible, the health and fight safety consequences of exposure.

In my opinion, it’s not morally or ethically right to continue to debate the health and fight effects of exposure to contaminated air, whilst still allowing crews, farepaying passengers (some pregnant) and others to be exposed to contaminated air.

In my career, I have seen aviation effectively mitigate the risk of numerous threats to fight safety: TCAS, EGPWS, CRM, the ‘glass cockpit’ and the advent of fy-bywire to name a few. Aviation has the ability to resolve this problem. All it needs is the will to do so.

Most passengers I have met would pay for clean air if given a choice. They pay for nearly everything else, their seat, baggage, meals and security. All it takes is to stop the denial, fx the problem and make air travel as safe as is reasonably possible: Minimise the risk – adapt the Precautionary Principle.

United Airlines took a world lead many decades ago by being the frst airline in the world to introduce HEPA flters in all their aircraft for the re-circulated air. Today, the world waits for the frst airline to introduce an all ‘bleed free’ feet or the introduction of an effective bleed air fltration system to all their aircraft. It is just a matter of time.

Therefore, I am glad the Aircraft Cabin Air Conference 2017 will provide an arena for delegates to better understand the contaminated air issue and conduct productive discussions towards a positive solution to this issue.

Captain Tristan Loraine BCAi,

Conference Director,

GCAQE Spokesperson,

September 2017

This is the programme of the International Aircraft Cabin Air Conference 2017 (Imperial College, London, 19-20 September 2017)
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