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| Testimony of Leonard Lawrence
Written by Leonard Lawrence
Test by Professor Abou-Donia in January 2006 Professor of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology and of Neurobiology Tau and MBP suggest the presence of moderate brain injury. Consistent with chemical –induced nervous system injury.
My first recorded fume event was on the 29 November1991. During the take-off run having passed V1 (a speed at which the aircraft was committed to becoming airborne) the aircraft flight deck filled instantly with hot acrid fumes. The Captain and myself were blinded, unable to view instrumentation or gain any visual reference, our skin was burning and we could not breathe.
As the handling pilot I allowed the aircraft to accelerate for several seconds prior to becoming airborne. The Captain (a highly experienced pilot with many years experience on this specific aircraft type) with no visual reference, but by feeling this way along the instrument panel located and then opened the dump valve (This valve in effect lets air out of the aircraft). Within about 3 seconds the fumes cleared. The incident lasted for about 15 seconds.
For those 15 seconds we were blinded, unable to breathe and accelerating in excess of 160 mph. Oxygen masks were activated, emergency drills actioned and an emergency declared to Air Traffic Control. An emergency landing was made and the aircraft evacuated. Both the Captain and myself were employed by and trained by the aircraft manufacturer British Aerospace. One wonders how a less experienced crew would have managed. The aircraft and documentation were subsequently exported to Russia.
My last recorded fume event occurred in 2004. The Captain (a recently retired United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority Flight Operation Inspector) was the handling pilot. During a fume event he had the aircraft descend to within 500 feet above the city of Amsterdam not established on any published instrument approach and with no visual reference to the runway. The only time it is ever safe to be this low is during takeoff and landing. What is even more concerning is that I too failed to intervene. I can still recall the oily smell on the flight deck! At 500ft and confused we instigated a climb to 1500 feet. I still do not understand how this situation occurred.
The next day enroute to Italy, Swiss air traffic control gave a re-routing over Switzerland. Both I and the Captain were unable to process the information being given! That was my last ever flight before I resigned. Why did I resign? Because I could not and indeed still cannot think clearly enough to fly.
Aircrew worldwide know what is causing their neurological, respiratory, neuropsychological, psychiatric conditions. Many are afraid to come forward in fear of losing their livelihood, particularly given the powerful Government and Aerospace industry opposition to this issue.
In the Swiss Air Accident Investigation Bureau report into a serious incident involving the Avro 146 RJ 100 registration HB-IXN on the 19 April 2005 the medical examination of the co-pilot after the flight showed that during the flight toxic exposure took place.
What I cannot understand is why in my own personal experience consultant psychiatrists declined and failed to view the 2003 AOPIS DVD “Aircraft Air Contamination” when both the British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) and the Independent Pilots Association sent this DVD out to it's members presumably to prevent misdiagnoses.
My personal experience is well documented, medically misdiagnosed and with three Court of Protection Medical Certificates CP3s issued but never registered by the Official Solicitor. With other solicitors and doctors denying their existence, I was held as a captive mental patient for almost 18 months with most of my assets disposed of.
So, heavily medicated, misdiagnosed by psychiatrists, unable to take care of myself, simply because psychiatrists failed to eliminate any organic cause that could be related to aircraft fumes. Psychiatrists must consider the possibility of physical causes if there is a clinical reason for doing so. Thankfully the fifth psychiatrist did and I regained my mental capacity.
Only after a circuit judge allowed me access to records were the Court of Protection Medical Certificates located. (Following representation by Members of Parliament to the Secretary of State Rt Hon Jack Straw, Ministry of Justice), has the definitive response been given that it was the responsibility of the certificate holder to ensure that these certificates were registered. One questions how many others have, are, or will suffer a similar fate?
BALPA's Medical Officer directed my General Practitioner to refer me to Professor XXXX a CAA approved psychiatrist (whose team did view the AOPIS DVD). I have no doubt I would have continued to be misdiagnosed. Thankfully BALPA arranged for myself and a few others to have specialist blood tests for which I will always be grateful. The test identified chemical induced nervous system injury.
During my flying training little did I realise how in later years I would come to rely on the Cockpit Resources Management Training (CRM) and Human Factors Training I had received. “Mr Lawrence I see that you have been exposed to TCP - that's an antiseptic”. “No doctor TCP stands for tricresyl phosphate - an organophosphate”. There was silence!
I continued to receive treatment from a hospital that has and continues to provide specialist treatment. I now know the nature of the beast that I am fighting - tricresyl phosphate. How many have still to identify their possible current psychiatric misdiagnosis to that of an organic cause?
A professor of Psychiatry wrote “Dear Len, I think that Dr XXXX at the Hospital is intending to follow you up by pursuing neurological investigations. I think it's very likely that we are pursuing the same problems but through a different line the psychological and behavioural line. There is a point where psychological issues meet up with physical issues and I think that is what's happening here.
Dr Sarah Mackenzie Ross a clinical neuropsychologist from University College London has undertaken research on 18+ pilots said to be exposed to oil fumes on the BAe 146 & B757 & found a pattern of abnormal cognitive deficits in all 18. It was the same pattern to similar research undertaken by another psychologist (Leonie Coxon) in Australia testing another group of pilots also said to have been exposed to oil fumes.