17 October, 2023

SWISS forced to replace crew protective breathing equipment.

SWISS has identified certain issues with some of the protective breathing equipment (PBE) which is used by its crew members to protect themselves from smoke and vapours in the unlikely event of a smoke incident on board. The company immediately notified the relevant authorities, and is now gradually replacing the equipment concerned. SWISS’s specialists have also taken various actions, such as an updated training programme, to ensure that crew safety remains assured throughout the replacement phase.

The crew members of Swiss International Air Lines (SWISS) have various items of equipment available to them on their aircraft, such as to protect them from smoke and vapours in the unlikely event of a smoke incident on board. Protective breathing equipment (PBE) is particularly important here in providing a protective hood for cabin and cockpit crew members. The hoods concerned are equipped with oxygen generators to enable the wearer to continue to breathe and act freely even in smoke conditions. Two different types of internationally certificated PBE are presently carried on the SWISS aircraft fleet.

On two separate recent occasions, crew members on SWISS services detected an unusual odour in the course of their flight and put on PBE as a precautionary measure. When they did so, they found that some of the breathing hoods did not function faultlessly, or could only be removed with difficulty from their packaging. At no point during either incident were the crews or their passengers in any danger, and both flights went on to perform a safe and controlled landing.

SWISS reported these incidents immediately to the relevant authorities, the Swiss Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA) and the Swiss Transportation Safety Investigation Board (STSB), and has also taken action to ensure the optimum handling of the equipment concerned.

Breathing hoods to be replaced

Specialists from various SWISS units subjected the company’s PBE to extensive further examination, and concluded that the functionality was indeed partially limited on one of the two types used. While this less-than-full usability was not detected on all the hoods in question, SWISS has decided, as a precautionary measure, to replace all the PBE of the type concerned. The procurement of the new replacement models has already been initiated, and the replacement programme will be concluded with all possible speed.

Since SWISS has almost 1,000 PBE hoods of the type in question aboard its aircraft fleet, the replacement programme will extend over several months. In view of this, the company has also initiated an additional training programme for all its crew members which should, for instance, further sensitize them to the special care required when using the hoods concerned.

For SWISS, striving continually to identify any weaknesses in its daily operations and proactively seeking improvements are part and parcel of its business and activities.