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Aircraft: Air Conditioning

Volume 474: debated on Monday 21 April 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what reports she has received on (a) incidents involving the contamination of aircraft cabin air supply by fumes from engine lubricants and (b) the commercial aircraft types which have experienced a contamination of the cabin air supply from the fumes of engine lubricants. (199351)

The latest information is set out in the following table. It is taken from the Civil Aviation Authority's mandatory occurrence reporting scheme (MORS) database which contains reports of contaminated air events aggregated to include all UK operators. The nature of any potential contaminant is not recorded on the database, so the fumes could have come from sources other than engine lubricants e.g. chemical toilets or the galley. In 2007, there were 116 contaminated air events (reported to the CAA). These figures are out of 1.3 million airline flights—passenger and cargo operations—for the calendar year 2007.

Aircraft type

Reportable occurrences involving contaminated air (2007)

Boeing B757

47

Airbus A319

15

British Aerospace BAe146

12

Airbus A320

8

Boeing B777

6

Boeing B747

5

Various other aircraft types

23

Total

116

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what recent representations her Department has received on lubricant contamination of the air supply in aircraft cabins; what discussions she has had with British Aerospace and Civil Aviation Authority on this issue; and whether her Department plans to undertake research into the problem of contamination of cabin air on commercial aircraft. (199352)

The Government are leading research in this area. In 2007 we commissioned a world first research project to try to capture substances released during transient "fume events." The first stage of this work was to identify and test equipment capable of sampling potentially harmful substances in cabin air. The report into this (first stage work) was published by Cranfield University on 21 February after peer review. It is published on the Department's website. The next phase of work is to use the equipment identified to capture real-time fume events; this work is being developed.

We have regular contact with the CAA about this. The Department has had no discussions with BAe or other aircraft manufacturers, but they did give evidence to the Committee on Toxicity enquiry, and a note of the meeting is on the internet at http://www.advisory bodies.doh.gov.uk/pdfs/annex5tox0621note.pdf

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when she plans to publish the results of her Department's research into cabin air sampling. (199882)

The first stage of research, into the capability of equipment to capture fumes in cabin air, was published on 21 February 2008, after peer review. It is on the Department for Transport website at:

http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/aviation/hci/cabinairtest.pdf.

We are confident we now have equipment capable of real time cabin air sampling. The second stage of research, to use that equipment on participating airlines, is being developed. We do not expect to be in a position to be able to publish results until 2009.