A British Airways passenger plane prepares to land at Heathrow Airport in London. File picture: Luke McGregor/Reuters
A British Airways passenger plane prepares to land at Heathrow Airport in London. File picture: Luke McGregor/Reuters

British Airways jet in emergency landing drama after co-pilot 'overcome by fumes'

By JAMES TOZER AND PAUL THOMPSON Time of article published Jan 17, 2020

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London - An aircraft captain had to make an emergency landing wearing an oxygen mask when his co-pilot was ‘overcome by fumes’.

The British Airways flight was four miles from Heathrow when the first officer, who had flown the plane from Athens, complained of feeling ill.

The captain had to take over and raise the alarm while both he and the co-pilot put on breathing masks as a precaution.

The incident on January 2, now being probed by the Air Accident Investigation Board, is the latest of almost 300 so-called ‘fume events’ involving BA flight crew.

Almost 300 are said to have been reported last year and 100 staff are suing the airline, claiming their health has been affected by engine fumes said to smell like old socks.

In this latest incident, the unnamed first officer said he felt unwell during the final approach of the four-hour flight from the Greek capital. When the jet landed two minutes later at 8.25pm it was grounded for two days of investigations.

The first officer was allowed home after a medical check while other crew and passengers remained unaware of the drama. BA said there had been ‘a smell’ in the cockpit but there was no evidence that it was toxic or the cause of the problem.

‘The captain landed the aircraft safely and customers disembarked as normal,’ added a spokesman. ‘Fume or odour events have been found to be caused by a wide range of issues, including burnt food in the oven, aerosols and e-cigarettes, strongly-smelling food in cabin bags and de-icing fluid.’

The union Unite, which represents cabin crew, claims frequent ‘fume events’ have led to chronic ill-health for some flight personnel and the legal action against BA is being spearheaded by the family of pilot Richard Westgate, 43, who took his own life in 2012 from an overdose of sleeping pills.

The family says ill health caused by toxic fumes led him to self-medicate and contributed to his death. BA has denied any liability and the case is continuing.

The airline’s spokesman stressed that it would ‘never operate an aircraft if we believed it posed any health or safety risk to our customers or crew’.

Fume events were ‘thoroughly investigated’ with as many as 151 engineering checks carried out before the aircraft involved were cleared to fly again.

European research had found that air quality on board aircraft was ‘similar or better’ than that normal indoor environments, the BA spokesman added. 

Daily Mail

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