Veeresh Malik
Flying the toxic skies-II

Passengers are supposed to get clean and fresh air during a fight. So why is the air we breathe onboard airplanes so bad?

In the first part of this series, Moneylife gave you a layperson’s view of the various issues surrounding the air we breathe onboard commercial airliners, and asked for responses. In the second part, we now move forward, bringing some technical and legal aspects onboard.
But first, one more simple statement—the new Boeing 787 ‘Dreamliner’ will feature advanced ‘no-bleed’ fresh air systems onboard for cabin air. This is making waves, because it not only promises to provide clean and fresh air onboard, but also tacitly admits that air supplied on its passenger aircraft in the past few decades was not up to the mark.
Please take time out to read the submission by Boeing to the British Parliament on the subject, here:
Some excerpts:
“Ozone converters for outside air are basic equipment on the Boeing 777 and 747-400 Freighter aircraft, and are optional equipment on the Boeing 737 and 747-400 Passenger aircraft.”
“Maximum cabin pressure altitude will be set at 6,000 ft on the Boeing 787. Research at the Oklahoma State University Center for Health Services demonstrated a reduction in cerebral/respiratory symptoms and muscular discomfort after three-five hours of exposure to a pressure altitude of 6,000 ft compared with exposure to a pressure altitude of 8,000 ft.”
“The Boeing 787 will have a ‘no-bleed’ architecture for the outside air supply to the cabin. This architecture eliminates the risk of engine oil decomposition products from being introduced in the cabin supply air in the rare event of a failed engine compressor seal. In addition, this architecture improves fuel efficiency, thus reducing fuel burn and associated engine emissions.”
And also, Boeing documents on the subject, as well as just one media report in The Telegraph, see here, here and here.

 “On its new Dreamliner, Boeing is to pump fresh cabin air from a separate source (away from the engines) for the first time since the Fifties. This had previously been deemed too expensive.”
“Earlier this year, undercover investigators claimed to have found high levels of a dangerous toxin on several planes using the bleed-air system. Of 31 swab samples taken secretly from the aircraft cabins of popular airlines, 28 were found to contain high levels of tricresyl phosphate (TCP), an organophosphate contained in modern jet oil as an anti-wear additive, which can lead to drowsiness, respiratory problems and neurological illnesses.”
If all these, and more, are not an admission that something is very wrong with the existing system of providing air inside the cabin on an aircraft for passengers to breathe, then what else is?
Please view this in the Indian context, where repeated attempts to contact the ministry of civil aviation on the subject, as well as internal queries on the subject through contacts in the aviation business, bring out the startling fact that there is absolutely no data with the Indian government on this subject—the best they can offer is manufacturer’s data which totally ignores the issue of toxic air onboard.
In other words, there is currently no regulation with the Indian government about the quality of air that you will breathe onboard an aircraft in the Indian skies.
(Barring, it is possible, for the specific new Boeing 737-700 Business Jet Aircraft bought specifically for the Indian Air Force’s VIP ‘Communications’ (Pegasus) Squadron, which may have been fitted out with advanced pure air systems).
 But that’s not all. There are now some court judgements, backed by solid technical research, on the subject.
(This is the second part of a three-part series)




6 years ago

wow! What an eye -opener!
Just shows how blissfully ignorant we all are!


6 years ago

Hats off to Money Life for coming out with wonderful and out of the box problems not highlighted by any other publication.

3G auction to be completed in the next two days

The telecom minister had said earlier this week that the government may garner around Rs50,000 crore-Rs55,000 crore by selling 3G airwaves and Broadband Wireless Access spectrum through the auction

The auction of 3G spectrum is likely to be completed in the next one or two days, telecom minister A Raja informed the Rajya Sabha today, reports PTI.

“The auction is being held successfully; it will be completed in one or two days,” he said during Question Hour.

The e-auction began on 9th April and will continue till such time that demand equals supply, he said, adding that the award of spectrum was being done “transparently and fairly.”

Nine mobile telephony firms including Bharti, Vodafone, Reliance and the Tata Group are in the fray for three-four slots of 3G spectrum that allows subscribers to download hi-speed data and stream videos on mobile telephones. Radio waves are being auctioned across 22 circles.

“The procedure followed in allocation of (3G) spectrum is fully transparent,” Mr Raja said, insisting that the process followed was open to any scrutiny.

The available spectrum was put on the Department of Telecommunication’s website before the auction, he said.

Mr Raja had earlier this week stated that the government may garner around Rs50,000 crore-Rs55,000 crore by selling 3G airwaves and Broadband Wireless Access (BWA) spectrum through auction.

“The revenue from 3G auction alone may cross Rs40,000 crore. Revenues from 3G and BWA spectrum put together may touch Rs50,000 crore-Rs55,000 crore,” he had stated this week.

At end of the 16th day of auction yesterday, pan-India 3G mobile licence price reached Rs8,914 crore. Demand was on par with supply for just three circles: Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan, while only Tamil Nadu and Kolkata received excess bids.

The successful bidders would be allotted air waves in September after the spectrum is vacated by the defence forces.

Raja today informed the Upper House that there were various bands available—classified as 1G, 2G, 3G, 4G and possibly 5G.

While 1G frequency is used by security agencies like defence forces and police, 2G is used by mobile telephone operators.


Government may unveil some tax reliefs tomorrow

The finance minister has said that he has received various representations from industry and other stakeholders for modification of some tax proposals

Some tax reliefs are proposed to be announced by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee tomorrow, amid demands from various Opposition parties to review service tax proposal for the housing sector in the Budget, reports PTI.

An indication about some tax reliefs was given by Mr Mukherjee while initiating the discussion on the Bill in the Lok Sabha today.

"I shall cover the reliefs we propose to grant in our response to the issues that are raised in discussions, in my reply,” the minister said.

The Finance Bill 2010-11, which deals with direct and indirect tax proposals, is scheduled to come up for passage tomorrow.

Mr Mukherjee said he had received various representations from industry and other stakeholders for modification of tax proposals.

“While some seek modifications to the existing proposals, others have urged for fresh reliefs,” he said.

Many members during the debate on the Bill had urged the government to withdraw the proposal to levy service tax on residential complexes having more than a dozen units.

They argued that such a tax would increase the cost of residential properties and make them beyond the reach of the common man.

The other important tax proposals which can be reviewed include increase in Minimum Alternate Tax (MAT), the portion of book profit that companies mandatorily pay as tax, from 15% to 18%.

The government, however, is not expected to oblige the Opposition which has been demanding rollback of levies imposed on petrol and diesel in the Budget unveiled in the House on 26th February.


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