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Letters to the Editor: Will airplane builders fix their toxic air problem before someone dies?

Passengers on a Hawaiian Airlines flight cover their noses as the cabin fills with smoke.
Passengers on Hawaiian Airlines flight cover their noses as the cabin fills with smoke in 2019.
(Nani Blake)

To the editor: Cases of toxic fumes from jet engines leaking into passenger aircraft cabins have been studied extensively. The official position is that air fed into the cabins from jet engines is safe when all systems are operating normally.

Problem is, malfunctions can occur that make the air unsafe, as you have reported. This can be prevented. The technology exists and has been successfully used.

The Boeing 707, one of the earliest passenger jets, had a turbo-compressor that did not use air passed through the jet engine to supply cabin pressurization and ventilation. The modern Boeing 787 has electrically driven compressors that use outside air to pressurize and ventilate the airplane.

Use of engine “bleed air” was adopted extensively in the 1960s because of economics. Toxic fumes can be prevented from making their way into the cabin, but it would require changing government regulations. Yes, there will be a minor cost of a few cents per ticket, but the added safety is worth it.

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Preventing a problem is always better than trying to fix one that emerges. For example, it took three airplaine losses and the demise of Trans World Airlines for the government and the industry to recognize that nonflammable fuel tanks were good for them.

I hope the industry recognizes that toxic fumes can cause an accident and the loss of life.

Alankar Gupta, Normandy Park, Wash.

The writer is a retired aerospace engineer.

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To the editor: One takeaway from your important investigation into fume events (I had no idea of this problem) is that we need to extensively amend the Constitution.

The document does not really actively protect us from violence done by corporations. This wasn’t a concern back when the framers were writing the text, but the harm done by private companies has affected much of American life today.

The Constitution protects us from government harm, but it doesn’t address the dangers done by big business, including airplane manufacturers and airlines.

For all the talk about how the Constitution protects our freedoms, what about the freedom not to get sick at the hands of greedy corporate behemoths? That people have gotten very ill from this outrageous problem, while the companies have tried to cover it up and persuaded a negligent regulatory agency to dismiss it, just shows how the government needs a stronger hand in regulating such malfeasance.

The best way to do that is to seriously reform the ne plus ultra of U.S. law: the Constitution.

Zareh Delanchian, Tujunga

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To the editor: Thank you for the deeply reported story on repeated incidents of air passengers and crew being sickened by leaks into the cabin and cockpit air supply.

It is the latest in a long line of stories about how “pro-business” too often means “anti-people.”

Renee Leask, Glendale


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