Pilot 'unable to land' due to fumes

Neale Maynard

aviation editor

A BRISBANE pilot who spent almost a month off work after cabin oil fumes triggered severe headaches has told a Senate inquiry that similar fumes on an earlier flight left him unable to land his plane.

Captain Frank Kolver has detailed the incidents involving oil fumes in the cabin air conditioning in two written submissions to the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee.

"The committee is examining industry wide reports of health problems among British Aerospace BAe- 146 pilots and flight attendants exposed to fumes on aircraft operated by Ansett, Qantas and National Jet Systems (NJS).

The Flight Attendants Association of Australia has told the inquiry that 102 cabin crew on BAe-146 operators across Australia have been given medical certificates excluding them from flying on the aircraft.

And a submission by South Australian geneticist Judith Ford says that chromosome testing of five BAe-146 cabin crew showed evidence of exposure to "significant levels of chemical toxins, sufficient to cause grave, short and long-term health consequences".

The NJS submission to the inquiry, however, said while cabin air contamination might occasionally occur "in National Jet's experience contamination does not occur at levels which exceed permitted limits".

NJS also points out that BAe-146 air conditioning meets UK and US regulatory requirements.

Manufacturer British Aerospace has said previously that the plane's engine and auxiliary power unit suppliers had made changes in 1992 which delivered excellent results.

There was no risk to the safety of passengers or crew.

Democrats Senator John Woodley said the Senate committee would formally request Capt Kolver to give evidence to the inquiry next year.

Senator Woodley said much of the evidence would be in camera due to concerns people had about their future careers.

But he said the Senate was a place where people could speak without fear and the committee was looking forward to taking evidence from flight crew and medical specialists.

Captain Kolver's submission to the Senate probe says that he was first affected by the problem in 1997 while flying for NJS.

While descending into Melbourne he noticed the fumes, soon found it difficult to fly the aircraft and asked his first officer to take control.

The aircraft landed safely, but Capt Kolver had a constant headache for 10 days.

Headaches continued for two months after the incident, the submission said.

A later submission from Capt Kolver reveals that in June this year he encountered more fumes while flying between Proserpine, Brisbane, and Canberra.

"Later that same day I became quite ill with severe headache and vomiting," Capt Kolver wrote.

Constant headaches meant he was on sick leave for the following 26 days.

Medical examination by a neuro physician and a blood test were unable to establish the cause of the headaches, but after being pronounced medically fit Capt Kolver resumed flying.

The Courier Mail 6 Dec 1999 page 4

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