Jan 18: TAM Airbus Emergency was Slow Suffocation

Thursday, February 18, 2016
By George Hatcher

Image of A320 Interior

Image of A320 Interior

On January 18, 2016, a TAM Linhas Aereas Airbus A320-200 was on a scheduled flight from Brasilia to Aracaju Brazil when the pilots decided to return to Brasilia. They made a safe landing and were in the air ten minutes short of an hour. Incident investigations always take time. So it was a couple weeks later, on Feb 5th when the BEA reported this notice. (Note that the BEA is Le Bureau d’Enquêtes et d’Analyses pour la Sécurité de l’Aviation, France’s Governmental aviation authority.) The BEA reported Brazil’s CENIPA notice why the pilots decided to return.

The Airbus was climbing. Cabin crew told the flight crew that passengers and cabin crew were suffering from significant hypoxia. Hypoxia means inadequate oxygenation of the blood, or deficiency in the amount of oxygen delivered to the body tissues. Web MD says this about hypoxia:

“When your body doesn’t have enough oxygen, you could get hypoxemia or hypoxia. These are dangerous conditions. Without oxygen, your brain, liver, and other organs can be damaged just minutes after symptoms start.”

“Hypoxemia (low oxygen in your blood) can cause hypoxia (low oxygen in your tissues) when your blood doesn’t carry enough oxygen to your tissues to meet your body’s needs. The word hypoxia is sometimes used to describe both problems. Symptoms can vary from person to person, the most common hypoxia symptoms are Changes in the color of your skin, ranging from blue to cherry red, Confusion,Cough, Fast heart rate, Rapid breathing, Shortness of breath, Sweating, Wheezing. If you have symptoms of hypoxia, call 911.”

On the Tam flight in question, the flight crew manually released the passenger oxygen masks. After returning to Brasilia, the incident was rated serious. CENIPA is investigating. CENIPA’s acronym is in Portuguese: Centro de Investigação e Prevenção de Acidentes Aeronáuticos. CENIPA is a unit of the Brazilian Air Force that investigates aviation accidents and incidents in Brazil.

The flight under investigation was JJ-3538 flown by the Airbus registered as #PR-MAA on a standard flight from Brasilia,DF to Aracaju, SE in Brazil.

Brazil investigates incident

BEA reports on BEA2016-0061
Serious incident, Brasilia Federal District, on 18 January 2016, AIRBUS – A320, PR-MAA; click to enlarge image

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