By a Former Senior Airline Training Captain diagnosed with Aerotoxic Syndrome – 20.11.16
Exposure to fumes
Reality of Deployment of Aircraft Oxygen Systems.
The first point of note in the event of in flight use of flight crew oxygen is that the supply is limited (nominally 15-20 minutes at full flow required for a fume event) and is mainly there to allow the aircraft to descend to a safe breathing altitude (10,000 feet) in the event of the aircraft suffering a failure of pressurisation.
This supply is highly critical as the agreed “time of useful consciousness” at the high levels that large aircraft cruise at (nominal maximum of 41,000 feet for Airbus wide bodies) is approximately 15 seconds.
Should this oxygen supply be unavailable after a pressurisation failure, it is unlikely that the flight crew would be able to successfully perform the actions necessary to bring the aircraft down to the safe breathing altitude before losing consciousness, in other words this would result in the loss of the aircraft and all on board.
This in turn means that the oxygen supply is critical for high altitude flight. In other words, if this supply is even partially used, the flight may not continue to climb to its assigned cruise altitude. Since lower altitudes mean far higher fuel burns, this lastly means that the flight cannot continue to destination and would be forced to divert or return to the point of origin.
Costs of a fume event requiring return to base/diversion.
The first part of the cost involved with a return to point of departure for a fully loaded ULR (ultra long range) aircraft is fuel.
With reference to my former fleet (A340/600) the maximum fuel load that I regularly uplifted to is 165,000Kgs/204,000Litres. The cost of this at the current low price (Sept 2016) is approximately £0.48 per Litre. Maximum fuel load is then £97,920.
Assuming a fume event shortly after take off, this part of the flight burning 3000-5000Kgs of fuel, this would leave a fuel load of 160,000kgs. Assuming this takeoff had been performed at maximum weight of 380,000Kgs, this would leave the aircraft at 110,000kgs above its rated maximum landing weight (large aircraft are not rated as able to land at the same high weight maximum takeoff weight).This means that the extra 110,000kgs of fuel would have to be dumped.
This procedure in turn has a flow rate of 1600Kgs per minute. This would take 69 minutes.
In summing this problem up, £69,000 of fuel would be wasted, and the aircraft would be back on an airport stand approximately 2 ½ hours later (30 minutes taxi time, 10 minutes for takeoff and dealing with fume event, 69 minutes dumping fuel, 20 minutes to maneouvre and land and a further 20 minutes taxiing to stand).
EU 261 provides a schedule of compensation in the event of flight delays bracketed by the distance of the intended flight. ULR flights are extremely long (nominally up to 7500 miles) and fall well within the limits for a level 3 flight (greater that 3500Kms). The time limit for delay for these longer flights is four hours.
Bearing in mind that the fume event aircraft above will need a full refuel, new flight plans, time for the brakes to cool, a new departure slot, at least a small amount of engineering work to find the source of fumes, extra food to cover the time extension caused by the delay etc, it is unlikely that this aircraft would be airborne again within the four hours described by EU 261.
This would result in an automatic liability for the Airline of £520 (600 Euros) per passenger. Assuming a nominal quantity of 350 passengers, this results in an additional bill of £182,000.
Should this delay continue into the next day, this would add the need for hotel accommodation of a nominal £100 per passenger or £35,000. This would also be highly likely to have a knock on effect as it would be unlikely that most normal sized Airlines would have a complete spare aircraft at base and even less likely at outstations. It is therefore likely that more than one of the above costing would apply.
Minimum total cost of fume event correctly handled.
This does not include airport meal vouchers or costs associated with passengers missing connecting flights, knock on delays, hotels, chartered aircraft etc. It is the bare minimum cost.
This leaves a clear picture of why fume events are treated so casually within the Airlines and flight crews are under immense pressure to continue flying with a fume event.