Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Social Sciences, Media and Communication - Faculty of Arts


This thesis examines the controversy surrounding aircraft cabin air contaminated with oil. The focus is on the British Aerospace BAe 146 aircraft in Australia and the Australian Senate Inquiry which examined this aircraft. The aim is to examine bias in assessment and decision making processes surrounding health and safety by key stakeholders. The methodology utilises an interests-based approach drawing on two broad research disciplines, science and technology studies and the sociology of medicine. A number of stakeholders are scrutinised in order to better understand the health and safety implications for aircraft crew and passengers.

Aviation industry deregulation is evaluated to provide a historical context to the often competing interests in aviation. The roles of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority and the Australian Transport Safety Bureau are assessed both in terms of their obligations and claims. The hazard posed by Mobil Jet Oil II, the key cabin contaminant, is examined via research, publications such as Material Safety Data Sheets and government classification. British Aerospace assertions of aircraft safety are examined via its interpretation of a number of studies.

The findings of the Australian Senate Inquiry are compared to the UK House of Lords Inquiry into cabin air quality and the US National Research Council study into cabin air quality. Finally the debates surrounding long term health implications such as Multiple Chemical Sensitivity are examined and research undertaken by pilots associations and other researchers asserting health problems is assessed.

This thesis argues that key industry, government and regulatory stakeholders have shown significant bias in recognising and responding to the health and safety issues of cabin contamination. The consequences of such neglect, particularly when numerous other aircraft have been found to have similar problems, are increased risks to crew, passengers and aircraft. The risks of cabin fume exposure include short term health problems and long term illness, disease and disability.

02Whole.pdf (1338 kB)



Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.