Malmo RJ1H near Stockholm on Feb 2nd 2012, captain incapacitated
Last Update: May 2, 2013 / 14:48:26 GMT/Zulu time
Sweden's Statens Haverikommission (SHK) released their final report concluding:
The incident was caused by a temporary illness in one of the pilots.
The SHK reported that the captain had suffered from right hip and right leg pain when in a seated position in the cockpit several weeks before the occurrence but had not yet made contact with a doctor which was scheduled for his next leave following the occurrence. While the aircraft climbed out the captain felt the pain suddenly withdraw, his vision darkened and tunnel vision developed, severe dizziness and nausea developed followed by cold sweat. While the tunnel vision disppeared the captain felt still incapacitated with his cognitive ability impaired. The captain was admitted to hospital after landing, blood samples were taken according to standard procedures "Crew suspects cabin air contaminated by engine oil". At that time the captain was feeling well again. The captain was discharged from hospital the following day without any concrete diagnosis, all blood samples were without findings.
The SHK analysed that although they understand that the captain did not want to raise undue concern with the passengers due to his illness, there was no reason why cabin crew was not informed about the true reason of their return. Cabin crew could have better prepared for possible deviations from standard procedures in that case. The decision to return to Bromma to spend as little time airborne as possible on single pilot operation was correct and necessary.
The first officer adhered to most of the crew incapacitation measures, however did not declare emergency and did not notify ATC about the captain incapacitation. While this probably had no impact in this particular flight, such a mayday call may become critical to provide the aircraft with highest priority and alert ATC to provide whatever assistance might be helpful to reduce workload of the remaining pilot and coordinate response of services to get medical assistance available as quickly as possible. The SHK reported that following the occurrence the operator amended its flight crew operating manual requiring an emergency call in case of flight crew incapacitation.
The SHK analysed that the symptoms described by the captain generally follow known patterns of incapacitation caused by contamination of cabin air, especially by TCP. However, the levels of oil needed to leak through engine seals to introduce sufficient contamination of cabin air as well as the fact that the captain was the only person on board suffering symptoms make it very unlikely that TCP was causing the symptoms even when considering that every human shows different individual sensitivities to such contamination.
In order to establish medically whether a TCP contamination had taken place it would have been necessary to compare the blood samples taken after the occurrence with blood samples taken before the event without the individual feeling ill. However, the captain's normal levels had not been determined, therefore it was not possible to determine, whether the by products of TCP could have contributed to the captain's illness. The SHK stated: "The taking of specimens is thus not effective unless the specimens are analysed with the right method and unless baseline values for the staff have been taken for comparison."
The SHK concluded analysis: "The incapacitation of the commander that occurred after take-off cannot be considered to have constituted a serious incident from a flight safety perspective. The safety barrier constituted by dual pilots has covered the situation in an effective manner without resulting consequences."
This article is published under license from Avherald.com. © of text by Avherald.com.
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