Minnesota Flyer - Serving Midwest Aviation Since 1960

By George Felix
FAASTeam Safety Rep., CFI 


A Silent and Odorless Killer


Listening to a favorite Podcast recently has brought Carbon Monoxide to the front of my concerns so much so that a portable industrial CO detector was purchased and put into use.

Please check out Aviation News Talk episode 90 which discussed the Mooney accident where the pilot passed out from CO poisoning only to wake up after the plane had landed itself in a field. The pilot is interviewed and gives great insight into his experience. Next listen to episode 102 where two General Aviation pilots report their personal experiences with the CO detectors they invested in after becoming educated on the dangers of CO on the flight deck. Their comment separately, but similarly, was that the investment equal to about an hour of flight time on the detector very possibly saved there lives.

Carbon Monoxide is a sneaky gas that creeps up on you the same way hypoxia does. The problem with both of these ailments is that you may miss the onset of the problem and the further into the problem you fall, the less you will be able to recognize it. Simply knowing the signs of CO poisoning may not be enough to save you as the signs become less obvious the more poisoned you become.

In any case, carbon monoxide inhaled replaces oxygen in your blood suffocating and killing cells throughout your body. The signs of poisoning include dull headache, muscle weakness, dizziness, nausea and or vomiting, shortness of breath, confusion, drowsiness, blurred vision, seizures, chest pain, and loss of consciousness. CO poison is residual and won’t leave your body immediately; though getting fresh air is essential it will not fix the problem immediately. If you believe your experiencing CO poisoning in an airplane vent the cabin immediately and consider shutting the heater off. Divert immediately to the nearest feasible airport and have the airplane checked out. It is also recommended that you seek medical attention.

If a decision is made to invest in a detector, be sure it gives an audible, visual, and vibration indicator when unsafe levels are detected. Then use the instrument placing it in your eyesight and where you will feel the vibration indication.

Knowledge is power and tools assist us in stacking the odds in our favor. Please join me in taking luck out of the equation.


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