Thursday, December 17, 2020

How we investigated toxic chemicals on airplanes: Los Angeles Times

Read the investigation‘We are slowly being poisoned.’ How toxic fumes seep into the air you breathe on planes

A Times investigation found that vapors from heated jet engine oil leak into planes with alarming frequency across all airlines, sickening passengers and crew.

Explore the full document

Explore the full email

Explore the full document

For decades, the airline industry and its regulators have known about incidents of toxic gases from jet engine oil and other fluids leaking into the air supply on planes. But the Federal Aviation Administration doesn’t track these fume events. And airlines aren’t required to report information needed to answer basic questions: How many fume events are there? How often are crew members and passengers sickened by fumes? How many pilots have been impaired by fumes, potentially endangering everyone on board?

To answer those questions, The Times first turned to a database of safety reports voluntarily made to NASA by pilots and flight attendants. NASA does not identify which reports involve a fume event, so the newspaper’s first step was to identify ones classified in the database as involving either “smoke/fire/fumes/odor” or an “illness” on a commercial plane. Those included more than 900 incidents from January 2018 to December 2019.

The Times modeled its analysis of those reports after methodologies used in academic and government studies of fume events. The newspaper counted incidents in which reports used terms such as “fume event”; described smells in language the airline industry uses to identify fume events, such as “dirty socks smell” or “acrid”; noted mechanical findings, such as a leaky seal, that confirmed air supply contamination or procedures completed by mechanics to decontaminate the air supply; or described smells and physiological symptoms consistent with exposure to toxic fumes based on an FAA-funded guide for treating fume event-related health problems. Incidents were not counted if electrical or fan malfunctions were the suspected cause of fumes, or if there wasn’t enough information to make a determination.

As NASA safety reports are made voluntarily, the information is limited to whatever crew members decide to include in their narratives. The Times used a conservative count of people who received medical attention after fume events. For example, if a report noted that an unspecified number of passengers were treated by paramedics, The Times counted that as two. To calculate the number of times pilots were impaired by fumes, the newspaper included cases in which a report mentioned a pilot suffering partial incapacitation during flight; handing off the controls to a copilot after becoming unfit; or declaring themselves unable to complete scheduled flights following exposure to fumes. Dizzy or confused pilots were not counted as impaired unless a report explicitly stated they were unable to perform their duties.

The Times’ analysis of NASA safety reports alone counted 362 fume events reported in 2018 and 2019, nearly 400 crew members or passengers who received medical attention and four dozen pilots who were described as impaired to the point of being unable to perform their duties.

The Times also filed hundreds of public records requests to identify fume events and determine whether passengers or crew were sickened. The newspaper reviewed two types of mechanical reports that airlines make to the FAA: Mechanical Interruption Summary reports and Service Difficulty Reports. Additional fume events were identified from internal airline mechanical records The Times obtained from sources. Paramedic reports requested from airports helped determine what symptoms were reported and whether medical attention was administered.

The Times spoke with several airline and academic experts in conducting its analysis. Guidance on identifying fume events was provided by an experienced pilot and airline mechanic who reviewed aviation records.

While reporting this series of articles, The Times reviewed thousands of pages of court filings from workers’ compensation cases and litigation against airlines and manufacturers. Much of the Boeing reporting was based on a cache of depositions and exhibits from recent lawsuits filed by flight attendants against the company. Additionally, The Times obtained internal airline documents used by pilots and mechanics when dealing with fume events. The newspaper interviewed dozens of people for this story, including pilots, flight attendants, mechanics, union officials, academic experts and medical professionals.

US Airways Capt. David Hill, far left, in 2015. In January 2010, a fume event during a flight from the Virgin Islands left Hill and his copilot groggy and sickened five flight attendants, sending them all to the emergency room. Afterward, Hill and his copilot both lost their FAA certifications.

SilverLight American Ranger AR-1, N261MD: Fatal accident occurred December 16, 2020 near Heber Valley Airport (KHCR), Wasatch County, Utah

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed.

The National Transportation Safety Board did not travel to the scene of this accident.

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Salt Lake City, Utah

Location: Heber City, UT 
Accident Number: WPR21LA070
Date & Time: December 16, 2020, 14:17 Local 
Registration: N261MD
Aircraft: SilverLight Aviation LLC AR-1 
Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Personal

On December 16, 2020, about 1417 mountain standard time, a SilverLight Aviation LLC AR-1 gyroplane, N261MD, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident near Heber City, Utah. The pilot was fatally injured. The gyroplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight.

According to multiple witnesses and videos taken from the airport, the gyroplane lifted off from runway 22. About 10 seconds later, the gyroplane climbed quickly followed about 2 seconds later by a right turn. The gyroplane maneuvered momentarily then descended and pitched nose down towards the ground just before impact.

The gyroplane came to rest in a concrete drainage ditch, about 390 ft north of the airport. All major components, except for two sections of rotor blade and one propeller blade tip, were found in a small debris field of about 50 ft by 50 ft around the wreckage. The two main rotor pieces and the propeller tip were found at an undetermined distance away from the wreckage. The main rotor system and an upper section of mast had separated from the fuselage. The gyroplane was relocated to a secure location for further examination.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: SilverLight Aviation LLC 
Registration: N261MD
Model/Series: AR-1 
Aircraft Category: Gyroplane
Amateur Built: Yes
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None
Operator Designator Code:

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: VMC 
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KPVU,4497 ft msl 
Observation Time: 14:56 Local
Distance from Accident Site: 21 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 2°C /-7°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: 
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 4 knots / , 290°
Lowest Ceiling:
Visibility: 10 miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.25 inches Hg 
Type of Flight Plan Filed:
Departure Point: Heber City, UT 
Destination: Heber City, UT

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries:
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: 
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 40.48581,-111.42531 (est)

Those who may have information that might be relevant to the National Transportation Safety Board investigation may contact them by email, and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email

Here is Mauro Dal Canto’s obituary. Please accept our sincere condolences.

It is always difficult saying goodbye to someone we love and cherish. Family and friends must say goodbye to their beloved Mauro Dal Canto (Salt Lake City, Utah), who passed away at the age of 76, on December 16, 2020.

He was predeceased by : his grandson Daniel. He is survived by his siblings, Cessna and Giuliana; his wife Fiora; and his sons, Richard (Pam) and Albert (Fauncy). He is also survived by four grandchildren.

A funeral service was held on Wednesday, December 23rd 2020 at 11:00 AM at the St. Vincent's Catholic Church (1375 Spring Ln, Holladay, UT 84117). Due to COVID restrictions, if you would like to attend in person, please contact the family.

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to: The Jed Foundation or the 5P- Society in honor of his grandchildren.

KUTV — A 76-year-old man was killed Wednesday after his gyrocopter crashed near U.S. Route 189.

Mauro Carlo Dal Canto, of Park City, took off from the Heber Valley Airport just after 2:20 p.m. in an experimental aircraft, according to the Utah Department of Public Safety.

Witnesses said after the aircraft began gaining altitude, it suddenly veered to the right and momentarily hovered above U.S. 189, before crashing near the southbound shoulder of the roadway. U.S. 189, which runs from Provo, Utah, to Jackson, Wyoming, sits adjacent to the small airport.

After hitting the roadway shoulder, the gyrocopter went through a fence and came to rest in a concrete ditch. Dal Canto died as a result of the impact.

It's unknown what caused the aircraft to crash.

The State Bureau of Investigation is assisting the Utah Highway Patrol with the investigation. The National Transportation Safety Board will also conduct an investigation.

HEBER CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) — The pilot of a gyrocopter has died after a crash in Heber on Wednesday afternoon.

Officials say the aircraft crashed near of US 189 and 1200 South close to the Heber Valley Airport.

The Wasatch County Fire Department confirmed the details in a Facebook post on Wednesday.

Police said the pilot was a 76-year-old man from the Park City area who was considered to be an “experienced pilot”.

According to Lt. Randall Richey of the Utah Highway Patrol, the red gyrocopter took of from the Heber City Airport when “for an unknown reason”, the aircraft veered to the right and crashed in a drainage culvert alone Highway 189.

“We’re very fortunate that there was only one person involved, and that it did miss other traffic on the roadway,” Lt. Richey added

Heber Valley Airport is located 1 mile south of Heber City.

According to its website, the city acquired the land to build the airport in the fall of 1946, but the project came to a standstill in 1947 due to a lack of funding.

That changed when 6 men came together to form Heber Valley Flying Service Inc., which acquired a $100,000 loan to begin the construction of the airport.

Local farmer’s fences that surrounded the site of the future airport were removed, requiring the property to fenced again entirely by hand, according to the airport website.

This crash comes just 6 days after a pilot was injured in a plane crash near the Ogden-Hinckley airport in Ogden on December 10th.

CH 601 XL SLSA, N601ES: Incident occurred December 16, 2020 in Hazlehurst, Copiah County, Mississippi

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Jackson, Mississippi

Aircraft made an off airport landing for unknown reasons and struck a fence. 

Date: 16-DEC-20
Time: 21:02:00Z
Regis#: N601ES
Aircraft Make: AIRCRAFT MFG
Aircraft Model: CH601
Event Type: INCIDENT
Highest Injury: NONE
Aircraft Missing: No
Activity: PERSONAL
Flight Phase: EN ROUTE (ENR)
Operation: 91

Embraer EMB-500 Phenom 100, N661EP: Accident occurred December 16, 2020 at Jacksonville Executive Airport at Craig (KCRG), Duval County, Florida

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed.

The National Transportation Safety Board did not travel to the scene of this accident. 

Additional Participating Entity: 
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Orlando, Florida

Executive Aviation Investors Inc

Location: Jacksonville, FL
Accident Number: ERA21LA077
Date & Time: December 16, 2020, 14:19 Local 
Registration: N661EP
Aircraft: Embraer EMB-500
Injuries: 3 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Executive/Corporate

On December 16, 2020, at 1419 eastern standard time, an Embraer EMB-500, N661EP, was substantially damaged when it overran the runway during landing at Jacksonville Executive Airport at Craig (CRG), Jacksonville, Florida. The pilot, copilot, and passenger were not injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 corporate flight.

According to the pilot, he performed an instrument landing system approach to runway 32 at CRG. He landed in the touchdown zone at a speed of 100 knots. After the airplane slowed to 80 knots, he applied full manual braking, but the airplane “was not reducing speed for stop as expected.” As the airplane approached the departure end of the runway, he attempted to apply the emergency brake three times, with no response. As the airplane rolled into the grass, he attempted to activate the emergency brake again, with no response. He applied left rudder to avoid colliding with the approach lights. As the airplane came to a stop the right wing contacted the ground.

A review of photographs provided by the airport manager revealed that a portion of the right main landing gear punctured the right wing near its root.

The 1918 weather conditions reported at CRG included wind from 250° at 3 knots, visibility ¼ statute mile, heavy rain in thunderstorms, and mist, and a broken cloud ceiling at 300 ft above ground level. The remarks section of the weather observation included a note indicating the previous 1-hour precipitation water equivalent was 0.32 inches.

The airplane was retained for further examination

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Embraer
Registration: N661EP
Model/Series: EMB-500 
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: No
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None
Operator Designator Code:

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: IMC
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: CRG,41 ft msl
Observation Time: 14:18 Local
Distance from Accident Site: 1 Nautical Miles 
Temperature/Dew Point: 12°C /11°C
Lowest Cloud Condition:
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 3 knots / , 250°
Lowest Ceiling: Broken / 300 ft AGL 
Visibility: 0.25 miles
Altimeter Setting: 29.93 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: IFR
Departure Point: Miami, FL (OPF)
Destination: Jacksonville, FL

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 2 None 
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 1 None
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A 
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 3 None
Latitude, Longitude: 30.344503,-81.519576 (est)

Pandemic-ravaged aviation industry is repurposing planes and adding cold-storage facilities to distribute the Covid-19 vaccines

Covid-19 Vaccines Are Coming. Airlines Are Rushing To Deliver Them.
UPS employees moved containers of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at the Louisville airport in Kentucky on December 13th.

Vaccines and many other pharmaceuticals require rigorous temperature control throughout the entire supply chain. 

The Wall Street Journal
By Benjamin Katz, Doug Cameron and Alison Sider
Updated December 16, 2020 2:44 pm ET

The global aviation industry, laid low by the pandemic, is gearing up to play a critical role in delivering the billions of vaccine doses the world needs to fight Covid-19.

Airlines are using passenger jets for cargo-only flights and revamping handling procedures. Airports, meantime, are bolstering security at depots handling the shots and adding or expanding cold-storage facilities to keep doses at their required temperature.

Pfizer Inc. and Germany’s BioNTech SE —pharmaceutical partners that currently make the only approved vaccine in the West—used trucks to move early shipments from a factory in Belgium to the U.K. and from a Michigan plant to United States health agencies and hospitals. But industry experts estimate that as more vaccines are approved and distribution kicks into full gear, about half of the doses being transported around the world will go by plane.

“In January it really starts,” said Dorothea von Boxberg, chief executive of Deutsche Lufthansa AG’s cargo unit, which is bidding for contracts to fly vaccines globally. She said she expects the air shipments to peak in 2021’s second quarter.

But the vaccine won’t be much of a financial cushion for an industry that has been hit hard by the pandemic. Covid-19 vaccines are estimated to account for around 1% of total air cargo shipments industry-wide in 2021.

“Will it save our results for next year? No, it won’t,” Ms. Von Boxberg said. “It’s just such an important type of shipment.”

In the United States, where Pfizer won emergency authorization for its shot last week, executives have contracted directly with United Parcel Service Inc. and FedEx Corp. to ship its vaccines by air and truck. McKesson Corporation, a big pharmaceuticals distributor, is also using FedEx and UPS to ship vaccines being developed by Moderna Inc. and other manufacturers.

Big air-cargo hubs such as Memphis and Chicago are used to handling millions of flu and measles vaccines each year, but smaller airports have stepped up efforts in preparation for the Covid-19 shots as well.

FedEx is trucking shipments from Pfizer’s Kalamazoo, Michigan, plant to Gerald R. Ford International Airport in nearby Grand Rapids, and then flying them on to its Memphis and Indianapolis hubs, according to airport officials and flight records. UPS trucks shipments to Capital Region International Airport in Lansing, Michigan, for flights to its Louisville hub, according to airport officials.

Grand Rapids airport officials say they expect regular Pfizer shipments in the coming months, and are in talks with four global airlines aside from FedEx about vaccine flights.

Meantime, the Federal Aviation Administration has issued airports new vaccine guidance, including about enhanced security and snow-removal protocols.

FedEx and UPS said vaccine shipments receive priority over other parcels as part of their next-day delivery guarantees. “It goes on the plane first, it comes off the plane first,” Richard Smith, president of the Americas at FedEx Express, said at a congressional hearing last week.

United Airlines Holdings Inc. was one of the first in the world to carry the Pfizer vaccine outside of trials. Shipments began at the end of November, after United started cargo-only flights between Brussels and Chicago to bring in doses of the Pfizer vaccine made at its Belgium plant.

United has flown five charter jets carrying vaccines from Brussels to Chicago, each with capacity to hold over one million doses. The airline said it has also started carrying vaccines on passenger flights to disseminate doses across its network, though an airline spokeswoman declined to say how frequently it will carry vaccines and on which routes.

At United’s hub at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, the process from parking the plane to the trucks’ departure takes less than an hour—about half the typical time, said Chris Busch, United’s managing director of cargo for the Americas.

“Everything with the vaccine is speed, speed, speed,” Mr. Busch said.

Delta Air Lines Inc. said it has identified its flights to and from India-—the world’s biggest exporter of pharmaceutical products by air—as one target market for shipping Covid-19 vaccines. The airline said it could set up charter flights on 48 hours notice.

Delta on Wednesday said it had carried vaccines from Detroit to Atlanta and San Francisco: It had the inoculations on their way within three hours of being engaged.

Lufthansa has applied for a series of contracts to fly vaccines from Brussels and from its hub at Frankfurt Airport along a series of routes to Asia and the North Atlantic. The German carrier has been operating test shipments in recent weeks and expects some tenders to be awarded in the coming days.

In Europe, Brussels Airport has become an early focus of the aviation industry’s role in ferrying vaccines—it is about a 30-minute drive from Pfizer’s Belgium factory. The airport said it has conducted seven flights carrying vaccines since late last month, including the United flights and flights by Deutsche Post AG’s cargo arm.

“Besides just the volume, for me, it’s really about the process control,” referring to handling and moving the vaccines and keeping them at the right temperature, said Hendrik Leyssens, vice president of global cargo operations for Swissport International Ltd., which operates a cargo facility at the airport.

Emirates Airline says it is building the world’s largest dedicated air-cargo hub for Covid-19 vaccines in Dubai, promising over about 97,000 square feet of temperature-controlled and internationally certified storage and handling space dedicated to pharmaceuticals.

Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. spent the start of the pandemic using passenger planes to ferry hospital equipment and protective gear to London from China. The airline, which earlier this year sought and emerged from the equivalent of bankruptcy protection after passenger traffic dried up, is now pitching to transport vaccines.

Virgin developed a new pharmaceutical-tracking operation using staff based in the United States and U.K. who can track shipments globally, with a surveillance team that maps the movement of each shipment and the temperature. The airline has also prepared security escorts where necessary.

“Right now we’re anticipating that it’s highly likely everywhere on our network will see pharmaceutical shipments,” said Dominic Kennedy, managing director of Virgin’s cargo business.