Pilots knocked out by toxic gas?

The deaths of 121 people when Helios Flight 552 to Athens crashed on 14 August may have been caused by contamination of the cabin air by toxic fumes.

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•Please contact me if you have knowledge of any kind about toxic fumes in aircraft, e-mail ash@dagbladet.no.

(Dagbladet.no:) Following a number of alarming incidents in international air traffic since the 1980s related to toxic gasses in cabin and flight deck air, American and Australian authorities in particular are putting strong pressure on the airline industry.

When oil leaks occur in an aircraft’s engines, toxic organophosphates can be converted to compounds resembling nerve gas, which can leak into the air breathed by the crew and passengers. This can have catastrophic consequences.

There is now suspicion that this is just what happened in connection with the tragic accident 40 kilometres from Athens which cost 121 human lives last year.

Raising the alarm 

The Aviation Organophosphate Information Site (AOPIS) is a non-commercial international group of aviation personnel who wish to inform airline staff about the hazards connected with toxic gasses originating either from oil leaks or electrical equipment.

Several thousand cabin crew are believed to have sustained permanent damage as a result of such poisoning. AOPIS has about 1500 sufferers registered in its organisation. AOPIS is now demanding that the body investigating the mysterious Helios crash consider whether it could have been caused by contaminated air on the flight deck.

Lifeless at the controls
“In our opinion there is a possibility that the Helios accident was caused by contamination of the air supply. Based on what we know, this must be investigated, otherwise this type of terrible incident will continue to happen,” says a representative of AOPIS to Dagbladet.

Several aspects of the Helios crash prompt AOPIS to react: It was reported that the aircraft’s flight crew were already unconscious before the machine reached an altitude of 10,000 feet.

This contradicts the theory that the accident was the result of pressurisation problems. Greek fighter pilots are reported to have observed that the crew of the airliner were lifeless at the controls at even lower altitude, and other Helios personnel have reported that they had noticed strange smells in the aircraft in question several times before the accident.

According to AOPIS, such odours in commercial airliners are often an indication of contaminated air supply.

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