NTSB Reminds Pilots To Beware Of Carbon Monoxide


The danger of carbon monoxide poisoning in aviation was the subject of two safety alerts released by the NTSB on Wednesday, one for pilots (PDF) and one for mechanics (PDF). The risk of CO poisoning is “generally overlooked and underestimated” by both pilots and mechanics, the safety board said. A defect or leak in the exhaust pipes or muffler can introduce CO into the cockpit, and exposure to the gas can lead to oxygen starvation and the onset of symptoms (headache, drowsiness, nausea or shortness of breath). Fatal accidents have resulted when the pilot is incapacitated by the exposure.

To avoid these dangers, the NTSB says pilots should install a carbon monoxide detector on the instrument panel of their aircraft. Detectors with aural alerts and a flash notification are more likely to draw a pilot’s attention to the potentially lethal condition, the NTSB says. During preflight inspections, pilots should check the security and condition of the exhaust system, the NTSB says. During flight, if you believe you have been exposed to CO, don’t hesitate to act. Open the windows, turn off the heat, land as soon as practical and seek emergency medical attention.

Pilots often overlook or dismiss the onset of symptoms and don’t connect them with the possibility of exposure to CO, the NTSB said. Continued exposure increases the risks, including impaired judgment and decreased ability to control the airplane and, eventually, incapacitation and death. The safety board also encourages aircraft mechanics to inspect exhaust systems, air ducting, firewalls, and door and window seals thoroughly at every 100-hour or annual inspection.