Wild fires to blame for ‘burning smell’ on plane, AAIU finds

Staff declared state of urgency after detecting ‘sulphurous’ odour on descent into Dublin

A state of urgency was declared on a flight from Cardiff to Dublin when a burning smell was detected last year, according to a report from the Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU). Image: iStock.

A state of urgency was declared on a flight from Cardiff to Dublin when a burning smell was detected last year, according to a report from the Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU). Image: iStock.

 

A state of urgency was declared on a flight from Cardiff to Dublin when a burning smell was detected last year, according to a report from the Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU).

During the aircraft’s final descent towards Dublin Airport the flight crew noticed a burning smell which they described as “sulphurous”.

The pilot also noticed a smell and noted that it appeared to be getting more intense.

The flight crew donned their oxygen masks which had integrated smoke goggles, and declared a PAN-PAN (state of urgency) to Air traffic Control (ATC), according to the report.

“During the approach the flight crew experienced difficulties communicating with each other and ATC. They also experienced restricted visibility through the smoke goggles. The aircraft continued its approach and landed safely at EIDW (Dublin Airport), where it was met by the emergency services,” it said.

There were no injuries and no damage to the aircraft. The aircraft was inspected by a member of the operator’s maintenance organisation and other than the faults noted concerning the flight crew oxygen masks, no defects were found.

Wild fires

The AAIU said the meteorological conditions on the day of the incident, October 18th, 2017, were “such that smoke from wild fires over the Iberian Peninsula was drawn over the east coast of Ireland and the United Kingdom”.

“In the Dublin area the smoke-laden air appears to have been present in the atmosphere, from approximately 7,000ft to near the surface. It was this air that the subject aircraft entered as it left the holding pattern and began its approach into EIDW (Dublin Airport).”

The report added: “The flight crew were not aware of the possible presence of smoke in the atmosphere; therefore it was reasonable, and prudent, for them to suspect that the smoke they perceived had originated from within the aircraft.

“Consequently, the flight crew took the precautionary actions (as trained for), of donning their oxygen masks and declaring a state of urgency.”

The AAIU said once the oxygen masks were put on by the flight crew, “they were presented with a new set of problems”.

“The lenses of both the commander’s and the co-pilot’s masks were obscured to the extent that their vision was compromised, and the microphone in the co-pilot’s oxygen mask was functioning intermittently,” it said.

The AAIU said the flight was not the only one affected by the presence of smoke from the wildfires in Spain and Portugal. It recommended that the International Civil Aviation Organisation consider requirements regarding the provision of information to flight crews on the presence of smoke in the atmosphere from ground fires.