East-West flight attendant wins toxic air lawsuit

A former flight attendant for East-West Airlines won compensation for illness which she alleges was caused by a toxic fumes incident on one of the airline’s BAe 146s. East-West Airlines operated eight BAe 146-300s between 1990 and 1993, when it was merged into Ansett. On 4 March 1992, thick smoke filled the cabin of the BAe 146 during a flight from Sydney to Brisbane. Flight attendant Joanne Turner claims she developed breathing problems and a persistent cough as a result. In 2009, the New South Wales Dust Diseases Tribunal ruled that the airline could have foreseen the problem, caused by a cracked compressor carbon seal, and awarded Ms Turner A$139,000. On April 1, the New South Wales Court of Appeal upheld the judgement. As both East-West Airlines and Ansett have long been defunct, the award will be paid by their insurers. This is the first award ever for illnesses resulting from toxic fumes on an airliner. Unlike previous such cases, it focused on a single incident rather than on a pattern of repeated exposure over time. BAE Systems declined to comment on the specifics of the case, but noted that “a number of investigations into the BAe 146 cabin air supply have been carried out by independent scientists and government bodies including the UK Aircraft Accidents Investigation Board” and that “none of these investigations has produced evidence of any contaminant exceeding or even approaching currently recognised safety limits.”

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