The air in an airliner’s cabin has been compressed by the aircraft’s engines. Most of the time, the air is safe to breathe. But if a leaky seal in the engine allows the air to first mix with heated engine oil, the cabin air can be contaminated with toxic fumes.

When a cabin fills with toxic chemicals from an engine’s bleed air, it’s a "fume event." For years, Boeing denied that fume events occurred at all. Then, it conceded fume events happened, but denied that they were dangerous.  

Terry Williams was an American Airlines flight attendant. She says the chemicals she breathed during a fume event in 2007 caused her debilitating tremors, memory loss, and headaches. When Boeing denied that a fume event could be responsible for William’s illness, Seattle aviation attorney Alisa Brodkowitz filed suit on Williams behalf.

What Brodkowitz uncovered created an uproar. As it turns out, Boeing has known about the risks since the 1950’s. But instead of fixing the problem, Boeing just covered it up.

According to Brodkowitz, Boeing has made no attempt to keep the flying public safe from fumes.

To this day, the only thing filtering this toxic soup out of the cabin are the lungs of the passengers and crew.

This week Boeing settled Williams’ lawsuit. But it still denies any liability. Alhough Boeing insists it is safe to breathe the cabin air in its aircraft, it nonetheless designed its new 787 Dreamliner so that the cabin is pressurized without using a bleed air system. 

Good idea.