Late last year, IAM Legislative Director Hasan Solomon and myself met with staff of Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal. Senator Blumenthal had several constituents who thought they had been exposed to contaminated cabin air and the Senator asked the Machinists Union to explain how that happens and what needs to be done to protect the flying public from this hazard.
As a result of the meeting, Senator Blumenthal introduced Senate Bill S.1405, Cabin Air Safety Act of 2017. This is part of the FAA Reauthorization bill and needs to be approved on the Senate floor. Hopefully, this will be part of the FAA bill in the final form will include all the items in Senator Blumenthal’s bill.
The Senator’s bill includes educating pilots, flight attendants, aircraft maintenance technicians and airport first responders on how to respond to incidents on board aircraft involving smoke or fumes. It will require all events to be reported to the FAA. It will provide funding for research to develop techniques to monitor bleed air quality and finally, require a report on the feasibility and efficacy of certification and installation of systems to evaluate bleed air quality.
For many years, we have been aware there is a danger with the cabin air in commercial aircraft. The IAM has helped fund independent studies on the issue, and I have served as an expert witness in lawsuits filed by flight attendants who contracted serious, debilitating illness as a result of contaminated cabin air. But this is the first time the federal government has acknowledged this being an issue and we thank the Senator for taking this fight on!
The health of our flight attendants, flight crews and maintenance workers, as well as passengers, are at risk. This is the first step in getting this issue brought to the forefront and get solutions on fixing the problem of contaminated cabin air for everyone.
The amendment to the FAA bill passed in the Commerce Committee last week. We need all our members to urge their Senators to oppose any attempt to remove or weaken this provision when the FAA bill comes up for a Senate floor vote.