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Boeing settles “toxic air” case hours before the trial

Boeing settles “toxic air” case hours before the trial

CHICAGO — For decades there have been complaints about the system most Boeing commercial planes use to pump oxygen into the cabin; But hours before the Chicago-based company is scheduled to stand trial to answer allegations that toxic air contributed to a person’s death, Boeing has settled.

This means that the public will not be able to see the internal documents and other evidence that the plaintiff’s lawyers have argued prove that Boeing was aware of the possibility of dangerous air mixing in its aircraft cabin.

“He came home and told me he had a ‘smoke event’ and the plane was full of smoke,” Martha Welland said of an experience her husband, pilot Ron, had in 2016. The cockpit crew ran the plane’s engines only to overwhelm the plane with smoke and fumes. The initial burn in his eyes, nose and throat eventually changed into more serious symptoms in the months that followed, according to allegations in Weiland’s lawsuit against Boeing. “It started with occasional slurring of his words and then progressed to not being able to speak at all, not being able to swallow, and eventually losing the use of his legs,” Martha Weiland recalls. Her husband passed away in 2019.

All Boeing commercial aircraft – except for the 787 Dreamliner – use what’s known as a “bleed air system” in which outside air is sucked in through the engine and essentially bleed, diverted to the cabin and recycled with the already breathing passengers and crew. Under normal circumstances there are no problems. However, if there is a problem with the engine such as an oil leak, toxic fumes may fill the cabin.

“Boeing has known since 1953 that toxic air can enter the cabin,” Weiland attorney Zoe Littlepage told WGN Investigates on the eve of the trial. “Monday is the first time some of those internal documents have seen the light of day, this is the first polluted air experiment where some of the documents that were hidden in Boeing file cabinets can be taken out and people can see.”

In 2016, WGN Investigates reported other concerns, complaints, and lawsuits filed regarding the air issue. The report quoted a 2007 letter from a person who worked in Boeing’s environmental controls division who discussed pilots’ complaints about smoke and odors that may be a byproduct of hot turbine oil. “The bottom line is I think we’re looking for a tombstone before anyone with a horse is interested,” a Boeing employee wrote in palpable frustration.

Then – and now – Boeing says there’s nothing to fear. The company released a statement that said in part: “Cabin air inside Boeing aircraft is safe. Extensive research has been conducted by independent researchers, universities, industry groups, and government agencies on cabin air quality. Results have shown time and again that levels of pollutants on aircraft are generally low and that health and safety standards are being met. Based on On this research, the world’s five leading aviation medical societies have rejected a link between cabin air and significant health impacts, and no aviation regulator has determined that additional safety regulations are needed.”

Martha Welland was seeking multi-million dollar damages from Boeing as well as changes to the cabin air system. However, the terms of the settlement were not disclosed. Lawyers for Weiland and Boeing declined to comment on why they chose to avoid prosecution.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by FINAX NEWS staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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