Event Details

Title:Odd smell, Final Report by the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau concerning the serious incident to the Saab 2000 aircraft, HB-IZJ operated under flight number LX 1018 on 17 September 2003 over Lake Constance
Micro summary:An odd smell results in the flight being aborted.
Event Time:2003-09-17 at 1235 local (UTC+2)
File Name:2003-09-17-CH.pdf
Publishing Agency:Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB)
Publishing Country:Switzerland
Report number:1871
Site of event:Over Lake Constance, Climb
Departure:Zurich International Airport (Kloten Airport), Kloten, Switzerland
Destination:Dusseldorf International Airport, Dusseldorf, Germany
Airplane Type(s):Saab 2000
Flight Phase:Climb
Operator(s):Swiss International Airlines
Type of flight:Revenue
Serious Injuries:0
Other Injuries:0
Executive Summary:Swiss commercial flight LX 1018 from Zurich (LSZH) to Dusseldorf (EDDL), scheduled departure 10:05 UTC, took of at 10:21:37 UTC from runway 28 in Zurich via published departure route Bodan. The commander was pilot flying (PF), the copilot was pilot not flying (PNF). During the climb at around flight level - FL 140, approximately 10 minutes after take-off, the copilot perceived an unusual smell in the cockpit. He described the smell as follows: ďas if hot oil in a pan would evaporate at high heatĒ. His impression was later confirmed by the commander and one of the flight attendant working in the forward section of the cabin. There was neither smoke nor fume visible, the visibility was not spoiled.

The climb was initially continued according flightplan. A troubleshooting action was initialised. The airconditioning packs and both bleed air systems were switched off/on individually in order to locate the possible source of smell. This switching had the effect that the smell shifted from the cockpit to the cabin and back. The smell varied in intensity and provoked lightly burning eyes to the copilot and the flight attendant working in the forward section of the cabin. There was no irritation of the respiratory tract. That was the reason why the oxygen masks were not used. The smell was perceptible in the cockpit and until the middle of the cabin. The commander and then the copilot went to the cabin to determine the source of smell. The copilot deliberately checked the left side of the cabin where the avionics compartment is located. He ascertained some kind of acidulous smell (like vomit). This was confirmed by the flight attendant.

The troubleshooting activity lasted for about 10 minutes. In the meantime the aircraft was overhead Stuttgart at FL 260. As the source of smell could not be determined, the flight crew decided to abandon the flight. After analysing the situation the decision was taken to return to Zurich. Air traffic control was informed about the problem. At 10:51:46 UTC the flight crew received permission from air traffic control to initiate a left turn and return to Zurich via airway position SULZ. No emergency was declared. The passengers were informed that the flight could not be continued due to a technical problem and the best solution was to return to Zurich.

During this phase of flight, according the CVR recordings, the commander expressed his concern several times about the consequences of his decision he had to expect after the landing.

The smell ceased occasionally, however, itís intensity increased again below FL 150 until landing.

During the approach the copilot complained again about eye burn and light headache. Approach and landing (approx. 11:14 UTC) were uneventful and no steps for a possible evacuation after landing were taken. After an announcement by the commander the passengers de-boarded the aircraft. From take-off to landing the flight lasted about 52 minutes.

The serious incident was caused by penetration of contaminated air from the left engine into the aircraft via the pressurization system.
Learning Keywords:Operations - Cabin or Cockpit Smoke
Other - Workplace Culture or Management


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