Friday, August 16, 2013

A Dark Reflection

As promised, I am back to tell you a bit more about the movie I was involved in. It is called A Dark Reflection and, no, it does not star anyone you have ever heard of, except maybe Marina Sirtis who played Counsellor Troi on Star Trek TNG but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t watch it (if you can find it) because it has something important to say, something—believe me—that you will want to hear.

There is a problem in the aviation industry that executives, and governments, have been aware of for many years. To fix the problem will take effort and cost money and, since no one is aware of it, they can safely leave it alone.

Safe for them—company executives and government officials—anyway; the flight crews and passengers have been suffering due to this problem, in some cases fatally, but not many people have linked the suffering to this problem and those who have soon found themselves being stonewalled by both the industry and the government (pick one, any one—UK, US, Australia, etc.)

And this was the case for those few people concerned about the problem and determined to do something about it. Eventually, they were told, point blank, that the industry would do nothing to try to resolve this problem unless the general public got their knickers in a twist over it. I am sure the officials figured that would be the end of it, but instead the troublesome busybodies set themselves the unenviable task of making a move—an exciting, interesting, entertaining and informative move—about . . . air quality.

I do not envy them their task, nor the problems they are going to face in getting their message across. Remember these people spent years addressing government committees and meeting with industry officials so the talk they gave to us about the issue started off with a history of aviation lubricants from the 1950’s onward, and then segued into a discussion of the organophosphate tricresyl phosphate.

Incidentally, organophosphate is not to be confused with organophosphite. For those of you who failed chemistry, let me refresh your memory:


But I digress. My point is, the movie they are making is designed to speak to people like you and me and the message is this:

“When you fly in a jet plane, the air you are breathing has been siphoned off of the engines.”

This is a better message because practically no one knows what tricresyl phosphate is but nearly everyone understands what happens when you stuff one end of a garden hose up your car’s exhaust pipe and feed the other end through the back window.

While that isn’t exactly the scenario we are dealing with in a jet engine, the actuality is worse because of those pesky tricresyl phosphates, which are very, very, very, very bad for you.

Now, sometimes there are more fumes in the air than others, some people are more susceptible than others, and symptoms vary widely, but if you fly, you are in danger, one way or the other. Ever get off of a plane with a headache or sore throat, or feeling strangely fatigued and disoriented? That’s the tricresyl phosphates kicking in. Your symptoms will go away, and you can console yourself with the idea that you only fly occasionally, but the effects are cumulative: the more you fly, the more symptoms you get and the longer they stay with you, and nobody flies more than the flight crew. So, even if you feel fine, and are comfortable in the knowledge that you only fly once or twice a year, think of the pilot, and ask yourself if tired and confused is the condition you want him in while he’s landing your plane.

What the people making this film—pilots on permanent medical disability due to exposure to tricresyl phosphate—want the airlines to do is simply filter the air, which they, so far, refuse to do. (It’s all about the Benjamins; air filters don’t grow on trees but passengers are 10-a-penny, and there is always someone happy to fill a vacancy.)

I cannot give you a preview of the exciting action in this movie because all I know about are the scenes I was in which, frankly, were not up to high-speed-chases-with-cars-crashing-through-fruit-stalls standards. And I’m pretty sure no one gets laid.

It is, however, a worthy film, one that you should see if you get the chance. You can also support it directly; information is on their web page:

You can give as little as you like, but £100 will get your name in the “Thanks to” section at the end of the credits. £100 also buys you a share in the movie, so if it unexpectedly makes a fortune, you stand to make a few bucks. And even if it doesn’t make any money, how many of you can say you own part of a movie?

I’m buying in, so if you do happen to see the film, make sure you stay till the end and watch for my name in the credits.


  1. I can well imagine that this will strike a nerve with lots of people around the world. The bit about how it affects pilots is especially concerning. It's hard to believe that no watchdog group has taken up the cry before now. I hope this will get the airline industry to clean up their act!

  2. These folks have been at this for years, but no one is listening. But, of coarse, they were going after the industry and the government. This effort to take the message to the people is new, and they have high hopes. The problem is, the move is pretty low-budget so to get better circulation they need some publicity. They are taking it to Cannes next year and hope to get a boost from that. Fingers crossed.

  3. Wow _ I always feel knackered after a flight and sometimes I'm only on a plane for a few hours!

    1. Yeah, that sounds familiar. It will be interesting to see what the public make of this if the movie gets decent circulation.

  4. Hello ! I am one of the affected people - I became unfit to fly after 20 years of flying ! The last four years were horrible, I was sick all the time - I had to leave a rotation two to three times a month , since the exposure to even low-level fumes especially on Airbus', made me feel dizzy, sick with blasting headaches, equilibrium imbalance, weak, disorientated, extremely tired - it went as far as losing my hearing when it was worst. Some symptoms have persisted, and most likely will never go away I have been told. I would never ever fly again without wearing a mask and using oygen - so best thing is to avoid it, until they have changed the air-flow, and/or fitted filters and changed the jet engine oils - all of which is possible ! I too, have "bought " in to the movie - and hope to see many more in the solidarity credits list at the end - Tristan Lorain and Susan Michaelis have done and are doing a FANTASTIC and courageous job, and I wish them the very best of success!

    1. Bea,

      Thanks for your comment! Sorry to hear about how badly you were afflicted; let's hope this movie raises awareness enough that the airlines are forced to so something about it.

  5. Anonymous9:10 AM

    This is a very serious problem that the aviation industry is trying to cover up all the time! Governments are not interested as it will harm their respective airlines and aviation interests! The message needs to be spread amongst the public to demand a change in this attitude. Either change the sort of engine oils with Tri Cersyl Phosphates (TCP's)and use alternatives as Icelandic Airways are doing. Or fit air filters capable of screening out the chemicals!
    Complacency is not an option! A pilot may have a serious incident (if they have not already!) if no action is taken, crews will be injured for life if not die as will innocent fare paying passengers!

    1. Clearly, the flight crews are most at risk from this, and I met several while working on the movie who are unable to work as a result of this. The passengers are at rick, too, but only on the occasions they fly, but it seems getting them (us) riled up is the only thing that is going to push the airlines into action. Sad, but unfortunately, business as usual.

  6. Dee Passon1:39 PM

    It's not just pilots, thousands of cabin crew are suffering too & many, like me, have lost their jobs and incomes as a result of exposure to these toxic fumes. I've donated too & you may catch a glimpse of me in the dinner party scene! I've been conducting a health survey of crew for several years now & the results, including many comments from affected crew members, can be read here:
    I post all the latest info on my Facebook page Toxic Free Airlines. Dee Passon, ill health retired Cabin Service Director.

    1. Thanks for commenting, Dee. The statistics on that report were shocking. The Fox newscast on your FB page was sobering, as well, but at least it's good to see that the message is getting out there; perhaps this will help the film get wider circulation to help spread the message.

  7. Michael,
    Good work thank you for the plug.
    AEROTOXIC is the key word to describe the ill health...I have been promised that AEROTOXIC appears in the film.
    As you can imagine - countless aircrew and passengers are affected but because it's mostly invisible/denied - officially there is 'no evidence'.
    A High Court case in 2010 Australia proved that wrong after an epic 18 year legal battle proved a passenger had been made long term sick. How many others?
    So please don't forget AEROTOXIC because Boeing know all about it and their new B 787 Dreamliner has had the basic design flaw engineered out. But industry policy is to 'not talk about it' nor admit anything!
    This film should change that.