The Countess of Mar – 2016 Parliamentary Question to the Department for Transport

The below Parliamentary question was asked by The Countess of Mar on 2016-06-29.

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon on 20 June (HL503), and in the light of the fact that there are no detection systems fitted in commercial aircraft to indicate the presence of fumes, how pilots or crew with little or no sense of smell are expected to be able to identify the presence of fumes in cabin air that might constitute a potential safety incident.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon

Anosmia (complete loss of smell) is rare and many of the medical conditions/medications which may cause this are incompatible with pilot medical certification. Hyposmia (reduction in sense of smell) is most commonly associated with acute or chronic upper respiratory tract infections (URTI) – crew who have a significant URTI should not be on duty.

Even if someone did have little, or no sense of smell, there are other indications of the occurrence of a fumes event, such as the presence of smoke or a visible haze. In addition, any fumes event associated with bleed air contamination would be distributed throughout the cockpit/cabin, so detection does not rely on the sense of smell of one individual.

Any pilot experiencing symptoms of possible cabin air contamination, such as eye or throat irritation, should follow the standard operating procedure and wear their goggles and oxygen mask, regardless of whether they can smell anything – particularly if they are aware that they have a poor sense of smell.

There is currently no evidence of toxicity as a result of fumes events that would justify installation of monitors (even if monitors suitable for routine use on aircraft were available).