The professional footballer Emiliano Sala and pilot David Ibbotson crashed in a light aircraft on 21 January 2019 while travelling from Nantes in France to Cardiff. Both people were sadly killed. Toxicology tests found levels of carbon monoxide (CO) within the footballer’s body was enough to cause symptoms such as seizure, unconsciousness and heart attack.

Even without physical examination of the wreckage it seems likely that CO poisoning played an important role in the crash.

The most common sources of CO in general aviation are exhaust gases from piston-driven engines. There are, however, other sources relevant to the wider sector including the exhaust gases from turbine engines, auxiliary power units, airside vehicles, ground servicing equipment and from combustion of materials during emergencies.

Should these gases find ingress into the aircraft interior they may come into contact with crew or passengers. The resulting symptoms can vary from nothing noticeable to, in the worst cases, a catastrophic accident with the potential for significant loss of life and collateral damage.

The primary objective of this work is to assess the status, best practices and risks associated with CO poisoning across the UK’s aviation sector. The primary deliverable of the work will be a white paper which aims to further understanding of the pertinent issues of CO poisoning with a focus on general aviation.

The purpose of a white paper is to raise awareness directly amongst key stakeholders and to act as a source of information to support joint publication of articles, reports and other media all with the aim of raising awareness across the general aviation sector. During drafting of the white paper key stakeholders will be identified.

The secondary objective of the work is to identify areas and potential partners for further research work. The secondary deliverable will be an overview of each of these areas which will include details of potential partners and an initial funding strategy.

The work will review publicly available literature to identify the key questions which need to be addressed and define the project stakeholders. This will be used to create and deploy suitable assessment tools (such as survey and structured interviews) to help answer these questions and collect primary data.

The draft white paper will be distributed to key stakeholders with a view to; getting their view, to help address any outstanding issues, as a platform to discuss joint public awareness media and to seek interest in future projects. The final phase of the project will incorporate any feedback and create future project outlines.

This work is particularly timely as the COVID-19 crisis has seen much of fleet grounded for extended period which may lead to aircraft maintenance and pilot proficiency issues. Furthermore, the UK's exit from the European Aviation Safety Agency has led to uncertainties within the community and interest from UK based authorities in forming new partnerships.


White Paper

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