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5.11.17 – (LAA/LUS) – Aircraft Fume Events Training

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Thursday, May 11, 2017

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Aircraft Fume Event Training

APFA recognizes the considerable impact a fume event can have on a Flight Attendant’s wellbeing, both on and off the aircraft. Therefore, we want to ensure that our membership is fully trained and armed with appropriate resources should they encounter an unknown odor on the aircraft.

Per FAR 121.703, airlines are not required to report fume events to the FAA unless a mechanical discrepancy happens during the period of flight. In other words, unless the fume event is a direct result of a mechanical issue, the FAA will not receive a report of the occurrence.

Due to this lack of reported data, the FAA does not have the information that we need to support the claims of crew members being exposed to toxic chemicals in the cabin air.

In the eyes of some, NO data = NO problem.

So, how do we make a change? 

APFA persuaded AA to look at how they collect data from crew members involved in possible fume events. We will be moving toward a more empirical, comprehensive form that is closer to the industry standard for data collection that will help us determine trend patterns on specific aircraft. Since there will be times that we detect odors in the cabin that may or may not be toxic, accuracy in reporting is necessary to determine with certainty that you are in a true fume event. 

Moving forward, you may be asked to contribute information for the joint fume conference call. The purpose of this call is to provide necessary departments at AA and all involved Unions access to the same information.

In many cases, hearing the answers to specific questions can enable the mechanics to pinpoint and correct the issue before another crew is exposed.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) published a document known as Training Circular 344 that provides guidance on how to handle fume events on aircraft.

ICAO Training Circular 344 Statement

There are various types of fumes, smoke, haze, and mist that may contaminate the cabin and flight deck air supply system. The outside air may be contaminated with engine oil, hydraulic fluid, engine exhaust, ground service vehicle exhaust, fuel, de-icing fluid, or ozone. The recirculation fans are another potential source of contaminated air. Also, electrical systems and cabin items such as carry-on baggage, galley equipment and food items, lavatories, cleaning products, disinfectants and disinsectants may contaminate the cabin and/or flight deck air.

APFA in conjunction with the Spirit – ALPA Environmental Standards Committee has developed the following power point referencing ICAO 344: 


The following steps will ensure the accurate reporting we need to further improve our workplace environment:


As a side note, please be aware that the pilots may or may not be aware of what qualifies as a fume event. There is a common misconception among flight crews and mechanics that this moldy smell is only a dirty filter or oil/water separator when, in fact, it is the smell of used turbine oil.  This oil can sometimes leak into the aircraft bleed systems and thus into the cabin air that we breathe. Please stay aware of the various aromas encountered on our aircraft and, where appropriate, report them to your APFA representative. Also, remember to use your orange hang tag to guide you through the necessary steps after an exposure.

Stay safe and fly healthy.

Noelle Weiler
APFA National Safety & Security Chair


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