Swiss International Air Lines (SWISS) has identified issues with some of the protective breathing equipment (PBE) used by its crew members to protect themselves from smoke and vapours in the event of a smoke incident in the cabin. The airline immediately notified the relevant aviation authorities, and is now gradually replacing the equipment concerned. SWISS’s specialists have also taken various actions, such as an updated training programme, to ensure crew safety throughout the replacement phase.
PBE provides a protective hood for cabin and cockpit crew members in the unlikely event of a smoke incident on board. The hoods concerned are equipped with oxygen generators to enable the wearer to continue to breathe and act freely, even in a smoke-filled cabin. Two different types of internationally certificated PBE are presently carried on the SWISS aircraft fleet.
On two separate recent occasions, crew members on SWISS services detected an unusual odour in the course of their flight and put on PBE as a precautionary measure. According to the airline, when they did so, they found that some of the breathing hoods did not function faultlessly, or experienced difficulty when removing the hoods from their packaging. SWISS stresses that at no point during either incident were the crews or their passengers in any danger, and both flights went on to perform a safe and controlled landing.
SWISS reported these incidents immediately to the relevant authorities, the Swiss Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA) and the Swiss Transportation Safety Investigation Board (STSB), and has also taken action to ensure the optimum handling of the equipment concerned.
Breathing hoods to be replaced
Specialists from various SWISS units subjected the company’s PBE to further examination, and concluded that the functionality was indeed partially limited on one of the two types of hood used. While this compromised usability was not detected on all the hoods in question, SWISS has decided, as a precautionary measure, to replace all the PBE of the type concerned. The procurement of the new replacement models has already been initiated, and the replacement programme will be concluded as quickly as possible.
Since SWISS has almost 1,000 PBE hoods of the type in question aboard its aircraft fleet, the replacement programme will extend over several months. In view of this, the airline has also initiated an additional training programme for all its crew members which should, for instance, further sensitise them to the special care required when using the affected hoods.