The small New Calendonia airline Aircalin has been forced to ground one of its brand new Airbus A330neo aircraft after crew members suffered headaches and eye irritation from a series of “odour events” on the plane. Aircalin received the first of two A330neo aircraft in July (registration: F-ONET) but has removed the plane from commercial operations as it works with Airbus and engine manufacturer Rolls Royce to get to the bottom of what’s causing the current problems.
According to Radio New Zealand, crew members working on the brand new plane have reported the smell of oil in the cabin, especially during takeoff and landing. Crew members have been suffering headaches and eye irritation when the smell occurs, similar to other operators of the A330neo – TAP Air Portugal and Air Senegal.
In order to protect is flight schedule, Aircalin has reinstated an old A330 while engineers investigate exactly what’s causing the problem. When TAP Air Portugal suffered similar issues on its A330neo’s, the aircraft manufacturer suggested the so-called odour events were simply teething issues that would stop as the plane bedded in.
Aircalin has only been operating the aircraft for around a month. A second A330neo delivered to the airline in October (Registration: F-ONEO) has not been grounded and is continuing to operate flights from Nuormea to Tokyo.
Responding to reports of sickness in TAP Air Portugal cabin crew and pilots caused by similar ‘odour events’ on the A330neo earlier this year, Airbus claimed the smell and sickness were “not directly correlated with each other” and that there was no detrimental effect on the health of crew.
A spokesperson for the Lisbon-based airline claimed that “exhaustive” tests revealed that air quality on its A330neo’s is within recommended limits and that experts have been unable to find any link between the odour events and reports of crew illness. Airbus placed monitoring equipment on the plane but could not work out exactly what was causing the problems.
Like many planes, cabin air on the A330neo comes from ‘bleed air’ – in which some of the air sucked into the engines is bled off into an air conditioning system and then into the cabin. There is an increasing concern that this bleed air can become contaminated with highly-toxic engine oil, although airlines and aircraft manufacturers deny that ‘odour events’ can cause any longterm health problems.
Airbus has been contacted for comment but the Toulouse-based aerospace giant had not responded by the time of publication.