Did a ‘soap spill’ really divert a flight?

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Image caption American Airlines flight 729 bound for Philadelphia was diverted to Dublin

Documents seen by the BBC called into question a claim by American Airlines that an “smell” on a flight, which caused 2 cabin team falling unconscious, was because of “a spilled cleansing option”.

The occurrence caused the diversion of a Heathrow to Philadelphia flight, and a traveler being sent out to medical facility.

Records reveal part of the airplane had actually been dripping oil previous to the flight.

BBC sources state it is most likely the leakage triggered hazardous fumes to go into the cabin. American Airlines rejects that.


One assertion made in an internal American Airlines report on the event on 21 October does protrude.

It mentions that “meal soap in a bottle triggered 2 flight attendants to get medical attention and one guest”. Meal soap is the American term for washing-up liquid.

An American Airlines expert, who is not authorised to talk to the media, stated it was “impossible” that meal soap, or any other cleansing item authorized for usage on airplane, might trigger 2 individuals to lose consciousness.

So far, American Airlines has actually not reacted to the BBC’s inquiry on this particular point.

In public declarations the business has actually not utilized the term “meal soap”, rather explaining it as a “cleansing option”.

It states the airplane included was “completely checked” after the event by its “highly-skilled” upkeep group who carry out “an extensive examination … whenever a cabin smell occasion is reported.”

American Airlines states: “Cabin smells are a top priority for American’s management group at the greatest level of the organisation”, and firmly insists the occurrence was brought on by a cleaner which spilled mid-flight.

‘Overpowering’ odor

However, BBC News has actually seen and heard proof that calls into question that claim.

Firstly, we’ve been informed that an unusual “metal” smell was spotted on the very same airplane prior to the cleansing service spilled.

The “overwhelming” odor was spotted on the previous flight, when the aircraft was taking a trip in the opposite instructions from Philadelphia to Heathrow.

We’ve likewise found that there was an oil leakage on part of the airplane days prior to the occurrence, which might have been the cause.

The part of the airplane that was dripping oil is called the Auxiliary Power Unit, or APU. When the primary engines are not running, #peeee

The APU supplies power to begin up the engines and to run the electrics on the airplane.

Three days prior to the airplane was diverted to Dublin, an engineering upkeep report mentioned that its APU revealed a “high oil intake”.

The leakage implied it had actually guzzled an abnormally big quantity of oil, 31.75 pints, in the previous 2 weeks.

Image copyright Getty Images

Another American Airlines upkeep file specified that the APU was unusable, and identified that it must be fixed in the coming days.

A “poisonous smell” which led to “eye and throat inflammation” was likewise tape-recorded on the very same aircraft on 23 October, 2 days after the flight from Heathrow was diverted to Dublin.

In another report from the exact same day, the APU on the airplane is then referred to as “damp with oil”.

American Airlines declares the smell, which triggered 2 cabin team to lose consciousness, “was not associated with the APU” since the Auxiliary Power Unit was “not functional throughout this time duration and did not run throughout this flight.”

However, a file composed by airplane maker Airbus plainly mentions that an APU, which has actually dripped oil, can infect the air supply in the cabin, even when the system is turned off.

The Airbus file, entitled “APU bleed air oil contamination”, mentions that “oil odor or smoke in the cabin arising from APU oil contamination can happen at nearly at any time and not always when the APU is running”. Due to the fact that if oil leakages from the APU it can spill into the ducting of the airplane’s air conditioning system, #peeee


Fume occasions

“If an APU leakages oil then it enters into the ducting”, stated Captain Tristan Loraine, a previous British Airways pilot.

“So these men have an APU dripping oil. They can repair the APU however they can’t repair the contamination of the ducting.”

Captain Loraine has actually invested years raising awareness about so-called “fume occasions”, where oil or other fluids leakage and possibly pollute the air supply in the cabin mid-flight.

The airline company market is normally unwilling to speak about the issue, and it is by no implies a problem which specifies to American Airlines.

The 2 cabin team members who lost consciousness on the flight from Heathrow are not authorised to talk to the BBC.

However, we comprehend that almost a month on from the occurrence, among them is experiencing heavy migraines. Formerly that individual did not experience routine headaches.

American Airlines stated: “It can not be stressed enough that the health and well-being of our consumers and teams continues to be our leading concern.

“However, when it comes to the diversion and this airplane to Dublin, there is no connection to the APU or bleed air from the APU.”

Read more: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-50461302

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