Serious Concerns As Glasgow Boeing Smoke Incident Report Reveals Further Problems The Next Day

Same Aeroplane Diverted Due To Fumes During Flight Just 24 Hours Later

22.03.2013

By Rob Dixon

Lawyers representing passengers injured when a Boeing 757 was evacuated at Glasgow Airport last year due to smoke in the cabin have called for a review of Boeing auxiliary power unit (APU) and air conditioning systems, as well as checks carried out following emergency incidents, after a new report revealed the same aircraft suffered problems during a flight just a day later.

The Thomas Cook flight from Dalaman, Turkey, was evacuated upon landing at Glasgow Airport on October 11th after smoke and fumes entered the flight deck and cabin as passengers disembarked, with many of those onboard having to use emergency chutes to escape the aircraft.

A new bulletin from the Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) has revealed a faulty APU was the source of the problem and that the plane was cleared for passenger flights the next day with the device taken out of operation.

However, the aircraft, carrying 241 passengers, was forced to divert to Manchester during a flight to Tenerife after the pilots initially noticed a strong smell of fuel or oil then later began to suffer from light headedness and dizziness, which required them to don oxygen masks. During the diversion process a lavatory smoke detector activated, while both pilots needed hospital checks following the incident.

Now, Irwin Mitchell’s specialist Aviation Law team, which is acting for a growing number of passengers exposed to fumes and injured during the evacuation of the original Thomas Cook incident on October 11th, are calling for Boeing, the airline and air authorities to identify the problems with the APU and review checks performed on aircraft before they are allowed to resume passenger flights following a technical malfunction incident.

As well as representing passengers from the Thomas Cook flight on October 11th, the law firm acts for people affected by incidents on other Boeing aircraft, including:

  • The Jet2 Boeing 737 smoke and fumes incident at Glasgow Airport on 19 October 2012
  • Another Thomas Cook Boeing 767 forced to divert to Dublin Airport due to a fumes incident on 19 October 2012
  • A Ryanair Boeing 737 cabin depressurisation on 4 April 2012

Jim Morris, a former Boeing AWACS pilot and Partner at Irwin Mitchell, who himself has had to handle smoke and fumes incidents during his pilot career, said: “The seriousness of a smoke and fumes incident on an aircraft at any stage, from passengers boarding to disembarkation, can never be understated.

“Apart from the most obvious risk of fire on a machine carrying thousands of litres of fuel, the toxins contained in combusting aviation oils and other substances can have debilitating effects on exposure and can also have long term health implications for those exposed, including respiratory and neurological.

“While it is very welcome that the source of the original problems on October 11th has been identified, it is not yet known what was wrong with the APU and why a problem with it resulted in smoke entering the cabin. Furthermore, the fact that this second smoke incident occurred the next day is completely unacceptable and raises very serious flight safety concerns.  As such it is vital that the full cause and chain of events for both incidents are understood to improve flight safety.”

Following this second incident on October 12th, an engineering check and ground runs were performed on the aircraft to try and identify what caused the smoke/ fumes.  The Air Accident Bulletin reports that it was suspected that some residual oil may have remained in the conditioning or equipment cooling systems, after the previous day’s incident and associated engineering activity.

Jim added: “The second flight of the Thomas Cook 757, where both pilots felt unwell, is a worrying reminder of the serious consequences of fumes in the cabin. 

“Fortunately both pilots were able to recognise, without any warnings or alarms, that they were becoming affected by fumes in the cabin and immediately donned their oxygen masks. Had they not recognised the symptoms so quickly the consequences could have been catastrophic.

“An aircraft involved in emergency evacuation due to smoke and fumes must be checked very thoroughly to ensure that there is no risk of another related smoke and fumes incident before being  allowed to fly again with passengers. 

“Lessons need to be learned and measures put in place to ensure that this never happens again.”

Craig Gourlay, 35, was injured in the October 11th incident at Glasgow Airport after being caught up in the evacuation with his wife and four-year-old son.

Commenting on the initial findings from the AAIB, he said: “All three of us will never forget how terrifying that experience was and it is important news that the cause of the problems has been identified.

“While we hope that this will lead to a better understanding of the technical problems on our flight, we’re still concerned about how the evacuation was handled.

“Also, it is a major concern to not only see the same plane back in service just a day after our problems – but also that the flight to Tenerife was then struck by similar problems.

“There will be a lot of people out there, like us, who want some clear answers about safety related to this type of plane and reassurances that these problem won’t be allowed to happen again.”

Read more about Irwin Mitchell’s expertise in relation to Air Accident Claims