FAA Provides Safety Alert for Fume Events

FAA Provides Safety Alert for Fume Events

We are pleased to report that on March 26, 2018, the FAA published a “Safety Alert for Operators” (SAFO) No. 18003, that advises airlines to enhance their operational procedures to minimize onboard exposure to smoke and fumes. Importantly, it explicitly references the need for airlines to assess “policies and procedures regarding odor, smoke, and/or fumes recognition, differentiation, and mitigation.” A key source of such onboard fumes is the cabin air supply system when engine oil and hydraulic fluid contaminate the ventilation air. Many of our union members have documented serious symptoms after breathing those types of fumes.

See also: FAA Safety Alert for Operators (.pdf)

AFA-CWA has been pushing airlines, aircraft manufacturers and government on this issue for three decades. In the last four years we have specifically pushed for training programs intended to ensure that airline workers could recognize and respond to the presence of onboard fumes. These efforts have been successful. We led the way to get the  International Civil Aviation Organization's (ICAO) attention on this issue. AFA was an active member of the ICAO task group that published Circular 344 in 2015, which specifically covers what the FAA is recommending in this Safety Alert. 

We are encouraging the FAA to update the Safety Alert to explicitly reference the ICAO Circular 344. We are also advocating that the FAA tell the airlines to enhance procedures for all crewmembers, flight deck and cabin crew. 

While there is more to be done, we should recognize this incredible progress. Having the FAA officially acknowledge the importance of “prompt and decisive action” when certain fumes are present in order to “mitigate adverse health consequences” is an enormous step forward. We applaud this move by the FAA while continuing to push forward for clean air in the cabin. 

We thank all of the AFA members who have prioritized resources for experts to assist us with meaningful advancements in our Safety and Health on the job. We applaud our experts on AFA staff who have taken this mandate from Flight Attendants seriously and persistently pushed for positive change.

Stronger Together, Better Together, aviation's first responders keep climbing.

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