Smoke in cabin

Considering the 3 million flights per month performed by all kinds of aircraft with great success, there is really no need for any statistics on mishaps. The risk of experiencing anything close to dangerous are next to nothing. One thing stands out, however. Among the rather often present turbulence – which is not dangerous if you’re strapped in -, the odd engine problems, hydraulic problems, drone incidents, laser attacks and runway excursions, all of which occur a few times per month worldwide – and normally don’t pose any real danger -, there is smoke.

Most airliners are pressurized by bleed air from the engines. (One exception, an example of which is the slightly tired looking old workhorse below. The Douglas DC-8 had 4 cabin compressors in the nose, whose air intake made the aircraft famous as ”the only airliner that smiled back at you”.)5159653.jpg

Bleed air can be contaminated by external and internal fumes. Most cases are caused by internal leaks, where engine oil mixes with the air extracted for cabin pressurization. Normal remedy is an unscheduled/emergency landing, in some cases requiring medical treatment, depending on the extent of air contamination. It happens to all aircraft types, making a list of affected models unimportant, since it is the general condition of the jet engines that is the root of the problem, but here goes:

Since the beginning of this year: A320 (10), Embraer (7), Boeing 737 (7), A319 (4), A321 (3), B747 (3), Bombardier, A340, A330, ATR42, B757, B777 2 each, A300, B787 and one unknown 1 each. All in all 49 so far, or just under 3 per week. Statistically not much to fret about, but enough for efforts by a couple of US congressmen to demand legislation of some kind to make air safer to breathe, by means of crew training and sensitive sensors.

Concerned citizens can shop for small breathing devices. Less concerned can try a wet cloth, in the unlikely event that one is one in almost a million.


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