Pilots are calling for regulators to ensure the development of effective cabin air filters on board aircraft.
The demand from the British Airline Pilots’ Association follows several flights to UK airports reported to have been diverted after smoke smells were detected on board – thought to be the result of unusual atmospheric conditions.
Precautionary landings were reported from flights to and from Dublin, Manchester, Liverpool and Jersey.
Liverpool John Lennon airport said the smells appeared to be connected with “atmospheric conditions”.
British Airways, EasyJet and Aurigny confirmed reports of smells on flights were linked to weather conditions, according to the BBC.
A spokesman for Liverpool airport said there were three “precautionary landings” following reports of smells in the cockpit of the planes.
National Air Traffic Services (Nats) said it had facilitated “a number” of diversions from aircraft reporting fumes being detected in the cockpit.
All of these flights had landed safely, a spokesman added.
It follows reports of an “unusual red sky across parts of the UK attributed to the remnants of Hurricane Ophelia dragging in tropical air and dust from the Sahara, as well as debris from forest fires in Portugal and Spain.
The Met Office said: “The same southerly winds that have brought us the current warmth have also drawn dust from the Sahara and smoke from wildfires occurring over northern Iberia to our latitudes.”
Balpa head of flight safety Dr Rob Hunter said: “Today we have seen high levels of contaminants in the air, which experts are attributing to the remnants of Hurricane Ophelia dragging tropical air and dust from the Sahara, as well as debris from forest fires in Portugal and Spain.
“A vulnerability of the way in which cabin air is supplied in most airliners is that there is no direct filtration of the outside air before it enters the cabin, so if the outside air is contaminated, this contaminated air is drawn into the aircraft.
“This most commonly happens when an aircraft is taxiing on the ground close to the jet exhaust of another aircraft and it is rare for the atmosphere to be contaminated at cruising altitude.
“However, contamination can occur when there are high levels of atmospheric pollution, when volcanic ash and volcanic gasses are in the atmosphere and when dusts from storms or soot from fires on the ground are drawn in to the air.
“As part of the process by which the air is supplied to the cabin the air is temporarily heated and this can contribute to the burning smell.
“In principle, the air supplied to the cabin should be filtered and Balpa is writing to regulators to ask that the effective filters are developed and are then required to be fitted.”
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