British Airways A320 at London on Jun 14th 2022, fumes in cockpit affects flight crew

Last Update: November 10, 2022 / 11:52:11 GMT/Zulu time

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Incident Facts

Date of incident
Jun 14, 2022

Classification
Report

Flight number
BA-331

Departure
Malaga, Spain

Aircraft Registration
G-EUUT

Aircraft Type
Airbus A320

ICAO Type Designator
A320

A British Airways Airbus A320-200, registration G-EUUT performing flight BA-331 from Malaga,SP (Spain) to London Heathrow,EN (UK) with 159 passengers and 6 crew, was on approach to London about to intercept the localizer for runway 27L at 3000 feet when the crew observed a strong unpleasant odour in the cockpit similiar to wet dogs or sweaty socks. Due to the workload the crew did not don their oxygen masks and did not action the relevant checklists and continued the approach continuing for a safe landing. The aircraft taxied to the apron, needed to stop during taxi and again noticed the odour. Upon arriving at the stand the docking system for their gate was not ready and the marshaller needed 10 minutes to arrive, in that time the crew no longer noticed the odour, cabin crew coming to the cockpit also did not smell anything. After the aircraft finally moved into the gate and was shut down, both flight crew began to feel unwell coughing and retching. Cabin crew supplied portable oxygen bottles to the flight crew, which both used. It took another 17 minutes until the airbridge was attached and paramedics could enter the cockpit to assess the pilots. Emergency services used gas monitors but did not detect any combustible gases or vapours, oxygen, carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulphide, nitrogen dioxide or sulphur dioxide. The first officer recovered and was assessed to not need any further medical checks, the captain was taken to a hospital and after medical checks there discharged.

The AAIB released their final bulletin concluding the probable causes of the serious incident were:

The pilots noticed an unpleasant odour in the flight deck shortly before landing. Due to their high workload and lack of symptoms they decided to continue the approach without carrying out QRH procedures. The aircraft landed safely but, due to a delay in ground handling, there was a delay in emergency services gaining access to the flight deck. Both pilots developed symptoms and were given medical attention by Emergency Services personnel. After medical checks both recovered and suffered no further ill effects.

The AAIB analysed:

The pilots noticed the presence of an unusual and unpleasant odour only a few minutes before landing. Aside from the odour there were no other indications of a fault with the aircraft and, initially, neither pilot felt any sense of impairment from the odour in the cockpit. They briefly discussed the issue but, as their workload was high and both felt unaffected, decided to continue with their approach without undertaking any QRH procedures. As a result, neither pilot was wearing an oxygen mask. The operator strongly recommends that during fumes events pilots complete at least the initial actions of the ‘Smoke / Fumes / Avncs Smoke’ QRH procedure. These actions would have directed the pilots to don their oxygen masks and use the Emergency setting on the mask. The positive oxygen pressure thus delivered would provide a high degree of protection against inhaling toxic fumes. The aircraft landed safely and taxied toward its parking stand, and by this point both pilots had stopped noticing the odour.

During the 10-minute delay waiting with engines running for the parking stand guidance to be turned on, the co-pilot began to feel nauseous. As the aircraft parked, the co-pilot felt increasingly unwell and the severity of his symptoms increased. The commander carried out the shutdown check, made a PAN call to ATC and opened his window. During these actions the commander also began to feel lightheaded.

The Senior Cabin Crew Member entered the cockpit and provided both pilots with oxygen, although he did not perceive any odour. There was a delay of approximately 17 minutes before an airbridge was attached to the aircraft, which allowed paramedics and the RFFS to enter the flight deck. If toxic fumes were present in the flight deck this long delay would have increased exposure to them. The RFFS conducted gas checks which proved negative. Nevertheless, after both pilots were checked by the paramedics, the commander’s symptoms were considered sufficient to warrant assessment in hospital.

The odour was not noticed by any cabin crew or passengers and nor did any display any symptoms.

There have been a significant number of suspected fumes events in the operator’s A320 fleet, but no decisive technical findings have been made. The awareness of such events has been raised by the campaigning conducted by pilot and cabin crew Unions, and the CAA indicates the possibility of a psychological response to the perceived problem of aircraft fumes events. That cannot be discounted but neither can the occurrence of toxic fumes.

The operator has no formal medical blood test protocol for crew that could capture evidence of symptoms or exposure to toxins because its policy, based upon its own medical service’s recommendations, is to take anyone with symptoms to the most appropriate medical facility. The CAA does not recommend any specific medical test which could be deployed to detect exposure to toxic fumes in crew. Each medical case is assessed individually.

The issue has previously been given prominence by the CAA, and a Care Pathway has been created to give information to healthcare professionals caring for those exposed to such events. The pilots in this event recovered quickly and have shown no subsequent ill effects.
Incident Facts

Date of incident
Jun 14, 2022

Classification
Report

Flight number
BA-331

Departure
Malaga, Spain

Aircraft Registration
G-EUUT

Aircraft Type
Airbus A320

ICAO Type Designator
A320

This article is published under license from Avherald.com. © of text by Avherald.com.
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