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22nd April 2013:
Open Letter to Lord Attlee from Aerotoxic Association
16th April 2013:
Contaminated Cabin Air (German) by Tim van Beveren)
29th June 2011:
Airsense Analytics oil fume detector
I started flying the BAe 146 in 1989 working for an overnight parcel delivery Company. The hours were extremely anti social and it wasn’t long before I felt completely exhausted much of the time. As a new junior pilot, one quickly learnt to not step out of line and to accept many existing situations as 'normal'.
I had other problems; I remember when I went into a supermarket, the bright lights would jump around and I found it hard to focus on the goods. I also remember my speech being slurred, constant internal head pressure, difficulty with my memory and thought processing. Mild depression resulted from all of this but not from the rest of my life, which has fortunately been without any ‘depressing type’ problems.
As the effect started quite gradually but positively I imagined that I may have CJD (which was around at the time – mid 90’s) or early dementia and yet my parents did not have any similar problems and still do not.
My family associated my new ill health with the obvious stresses of ‘night flying’ – I now believe that this more acceptable, tangible reason actually masks the real invisible issue of OP poisoning.
I told nobody about it as I was worried about my job, it wasn’t life threatening, just an unpleasant nuisance and hard to admit to or understand with so many other obvious work stresses to deal with.
Any BAe 146 pilot will confirm that the smells on the aeroplane, particularly on the ground before flight are very bad. I have reason to believe that these smells are not good for any occupants on board. The smells originate from the air conditioning system and on bad days can be seen as feint blue fumes in the cabin for the first 10 -15 minutes before actual flight, it tends to clear - just before the passengers arrive.
By 1998 I was feeling very unwell as the effect increased to the point that it was impacting on my life and I knew I had to change my job for another.
Because I had been night flying for so many years, I reasoned that if I changed to a day flying job it would help matters. I really wanted to change aeroplanes but I felt ill, with such a poor memory – which convinced me that I didn’t think I would be able to cope with learning to fly a new type of aeroplane, so I stayed on the BAe 146 and moved closer to where I lived. I also took a 15% or more pay cut. No fun with a growing family.
Initially the day flying was better with more civilised hours of work and I hoped for a marginal improvement, which never quite happened. I still had slurred speech and all of the previous problems but worse. I was also aware of poor balance such that, if the Doctor has asked me to stand on one leg with my eyes closed at my biannual medical check - I know I would have fallen over. Luckily he never asked me to do this, although I had heard that other pilots had been asked. I also knew that my character had changed totally.
I was no longer confident, articulate and cheerful but slightly depressed, bumbling and withdrawn but always with a background glimpse of how I used to be. Not a very good advert for an airline Captain, but I still privately thought that I had some sort of early dementia. I had heard about the oil fumes problem on the BAe 146, but for some reason didn’t associate it any way at all with my ill health. My ability to reason was also damaged, which clearly gives an otherwise fit person a severe handicap and seems to limit rational thought - a catch 22.
I was aware by now that people were making allowances for me, my family and friends. I think that any problems were instantly put down to the ‘job’, which as most people realise ‘low cost’ flying has changed – for ever. I agreed with the stress of the job but there seemed to be a missing factor at work. I was aware of other airline pilots who seemed to be obviously quite well. Why me?
I kept flying whilst having to also put up with a semi legal rostering situation at the airline, where pilots life styles were continually being eroded away by Low Cost solutions; a terrible combination – feeling constantly below par and continually battling on a day to day basis for some respite. There is absolutely no sympathy or help due to well known pilot prejudices, just an expectation to get on with it – because it’s ‘legal’?
By 2004 I was suffering badly from severe over work and the accumulating effect of the illness. I had by now created some very strange ‘escape routes’ from the terrible time I was having and knew that 2004 would be a key year.
My family identified that my character had changed to the point of becoming a very strange person, which was true! But I had no control over my actions and found it very frustrating when they encouraged me to keep flying.
In the late summer of 2004 I was aware of being constantly exhausted and one day after a very demanding and stressful week I again elected not to fly due to feeling very unwell. By now, I was not at all confident that I could remember the memory items needed whilst flying with a ‘brain fog’.
"I felt that I should not really be flying - mainly my passengers' sake."
I had been vaguely aware of the contaminated air issue on the BAe 146 for many years but had completely failed to realise that it may be connected to my problems. I was something of a sceptic until the Spring of 2006, when I was invited to take part in some tests on other pilots by UCL, London.
I am now certain that if I had taken the drugs I would have not recovered as well as I have.
I know of many pilots who unfortunately have been talked into taking anti depressant drugs by the medics effort to pigeon hole them as ‘clinically depressed’ and to offer them the standard treatment for recovery. Surely it can never work, if one has been poisoned? It just makes it worse.
As a result of my experience over the past 18 years I am convinced that I was poisoned
I am now aware of many other pilots who have had the same experience and the important question now is. “If a pilot gradually feels more and more unwell for some inexplicable reason, exactly how and when should he or she stop flying?”