9 Investigates

Pilot checklist protects safety of passengers, crew

Some passengers threw up and fainted on a Spirit Airlines flight from New York last week after a mysterious dirty-sock smell filled the plane.

The airline is investigating the cause, and Channel 9 has investigated concerns of possible toxic fumes from engine oil on board planes before.

Pilots who fly through Charlotte Douglas International Airport said the Channel 9 report helped them get action, which could protect your family.

9 Investigates: Toxic Fumes In Airplanes

When passengers Janice Vergason and her grandson Dominic board a plane, they always hope for a safe flight.

Cabin Air Safety Act introduced to combat toxic fumes on airplanes

Flight crews are increasingly concerned about the risk of a dangerous toxin in the air on planes.

“I don't travel often, but I think that's a worry,” Janice Vergason said.

In 2010, crew members returning to Charlotte from St. Thomas said potentially poisonous fumes from engine oil seeped into the plane's cabin.

Channel 9 was there as paramedics wheeled a pilot away on a stretcher

“I like flying, but it is still a little scary so that would make me even more frightened," passenger Annette Hunter said.

Capt. Dennis Tajer is the spokesperson for the Allied Pilots Association, the union that represents American Airlines pilots.

For more than a year, the union has pushed for a checklist of what to do if crews smell what's known as "bleed air." It's described as a dirty-sock smell and happens when oil leaks from the engine and bleeds into the aircraft.

Tajer said American Airlines created such a checklist in July.

“(It’s) critical to have that because now I go to (the) possible source – oil,” Tajer said.

The first step tells pilots to put on oxygen masks

“Pilots can actually become borderline incapacitated so that is the first step,” Tajer said. “Now I have available to me, a checklist, that can help me combat the situation  and get the aircraft safely on the ground.”

American Airlines declined an on-camera interview but sent a statement reading in part, "The latest checklist is the result of a lot of hard work and cooperation to have a comprehensive set of checklists and procedures to handle reports of cabin odors and address those reports."

Some federal lawmakers are calling for more safety measures.

The Cabin Air Safety Act introduced last summer would require that flight crews receive annual training, and that the Federal Aviation Administration investigate all reports of smoke or fumes. It would require planes to have carbon monoxide detectors if the cabin air is pulled from the engine.

Tajer believes the checklist is crucial to protect passengers.

The Cabin Air Safety Act is currently being considered by a U.S. Senate committee.