Federal Aviation Administration actions/statements regarding onboard exposure to smoke/fumes (including engine oil)


April 1983: FAA’s Civil Aeromedical Institute published Inhalation Toxicology: III. Evaluation of thermal degradation products from aircraft and automobile engine oils, aircraft hydraulic fluid, and mineral oil. This research was conducted in response to a series of fatal turboprop crashes in the US. It had been hypothesized that the pilots may have been overcome by exposure to oil fumes in the ventilation supply air. The researchers exposed test animals to oil fumes that were first passed through a glass wool filter. The ventilation air on the crashed aircraft had not been filtered.

Dec. 2, 1996 (first published in 1964):Federal Aviation Regulation 25.831(a) requires that the aircraft air supply system be designed to “provide a sufficient amount of uncontaminated air to enable crewmembers to perform their duties without undue discomfort or fatigue, and to provide reasonable passenger comfort.”

Feb. 6, 2002:FAA responds to air quality recommendation in US National Research Council committee report on aircraft air quality, stating that “FAA rulemaking has not kept pace with public expectation and concern about air quality and does not afford explicit protection from particulate matter and other chemical and biological hazards. No present airplane design fulfills the intent of 25.831 because no airplane design incorporates an air contaminant monitoring system to ensure that the air provided to the occupants is free of hazardous contaminants.”

June 9, 2004: FAA published Airworthiness Directive (AD) 2004-12-05 , which mandates particular inspection and corrective actions on BAe146 aircraft “necessary to prevent impairment of the operational skills and abilities of the flightcrew caused by the inhalation of agents released from oil or oil breakdown products, which could result in reduced controllability of the airplane.”

Mar. 29, 2006: FAA Air Carrier Maintenance Branch published Flight Standards Information Bulletin for Airworthiness (FSAW) 06-05A: Guidance for Smoke/Fumes in the Cockpit/Cabin, suggesting that US airlines are underreporting smoke/fumes incidents to the FAA. The bulletin expired one year after its publication. Link to pdf file, attached – not available online anymore

June 8, 2006:FAA Director of Flight Standards Service presented: Smoke in the Cockpit. Presentation noted FAA’s growing concern over numerous reports of smoke/ fumes in cockpit/cabin, its data analysis indicating that numerous events not being reported, and its new policy in response to the Secretary of Transportation’s interest and concern.

Oct. 6, 2010: FAA published Information for Operators (InFO) bulletin 10019: Smoke/Fumes in the Cabin/Cockpit of Transport Category Aircraft, noting that the FAA Office of Accident Investigation and Prevention receives more than 900 reports a year on smoke or fumes in the cabin and/or cockpit.

July 17, 2012:FAA published Request for Information on Bleed Air Cleaning and Monitoring Equipment and Technology (Docket No. FAA-2012-0714, folder summary)

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