Canary in the Cabin:
Did you know that there are telltale signs that your plane may be soon to have a Fume Event? There are indicators but you have to be paying attention to your passengers and you must have situational awareness. If you continue to fly on a plane where there are what I call chronic “Sick Rows” then do not ignore this problem. You notice that there seems to be an odd coincidence going on in a single row flight after flight. A group of passengers in one row of three on aircraft left midway in the back of the cabin typically around row 18 to 23 somewhere in that area keeps getting sick flight after flight. You interview the passengers and none had been drinking, none have health conditions, none are medicated and none have eaten anything unusual. Yet, flight after flight this section keeps having air sickness and some even fall unconscious or experience migraines.
When a seal in the engine begins to fracture, it often trickles the toxins into one row of the cabin where it accumulates. I call these areas the Canaries in the Cabin as they are the predictors of what is about to come for this aircraft down the line. Out of my two worst Fume Events in my history, I remember documenting these sick rows on an aircraft for 6 months prior. Both airline employers and maintenance completely ignored those reports saying they could not find anything wrong. Then 6 months later both of the aircraft in question had the heaviest Fume Events that I have encountered to date with full wet seal ruptures during flight. The engine wet seal has a lifespan of about 5,000 flight hours before it needs to be replaced. After deregulation, the airline industry changed the law to allow these same engines wet seals to be replaced at 30,000 flight hours.
We literally run ours into the ground and allow multiple Fume Events to occur before pulling an aircraft from line to put the aircraft into engine overhaul, C-Check, and Wet Seal Replacement. The airline knows this but they can not fix the problem with our current business model as it operates today. We never have more than 2 aircraft out of service at any given time. All of our planes are attached to flying and we never buy planes for spares so that others can get these seals serviced before they begin to break. This is our single biggest challenge at our airline today. That is to find a way to make our aircraft compliant when we never give them time to rest or be offline to have the maintenance they need to ensure our protection. In the meantime, it is up to each of us to remain vigilant and not ignore the “Canaries in the Cabin.” As the lives, they may be giving us the warning to protect and save may very well just be our own. As we are the new Coal Miners of the Sky.
Knowledge is Power !