Shropshire pilot welcomes breakthrough in fight against debilitating syndrome
A Shropshire pilot is leading an international fight for official recognition of a debilitating syndrome affecting many flyers and has won the support of US politicians and legislators with his colleague’s campaign.
John Hoyte, 66, of Bridgnorth, is chairman of the not-for-profit Aerotoxic Association, the charity which he founded in 2007 to help support others fight the cause for all those affected by Aerotoxic Syndrome.
The syndrome affects flyers and is believed to be caused by exposure to contaminated cabin air. It causes mainly neurological adverse health effects.
John, 66, has been battling with others affected by alleged toxic cabin air to have the ill health condition officially recognised as an occupational disease by governments, airline operators, aviation authorities and state doctors in the UK and across the world.
The campaigners want to have the condition recognised as an occupational disease and want the installation of air quality sensors in aircraft cockpits and cabins to alert pilots to cabin air contamination.
John said: “Our calculations, based on 2016 published Dutch research, are that there could be as many as one million aircrew and frequent flyers who are unknowingly affected by Aerotoxic Syndrome in Europe alone.”
Now he believes there is a breakthrough with a new Bill introduced in the US Congress which would force the airline industry to adopt known and now available solutions to protect passengers and crew members from toxic oil fumes in ‘bleed air’ jet aircraft.
The issue has recently been highlighted again by The Los Angeles Times and in new research by Dr Stephen Mawdsley of the University of Bristol, published in the Journal of Contemporary History.
John has now set up the Aerotoxic Solutions Consultancy which will be able to advise doctors, lawyers, scientists, and the public on the health and safety solutions to the syndrome. He is based at the Hadleigh Works co-working centre in Oswestry.
“The US Bill is by far the most critical advance, as it explains exactly why legislation should be brought in to protect the flying public,” he said.
John's flying commercial career began in Shropshire in 1982 when he flew aerial crop spraying aircraft for Hodges & Moss of Shrewsbury, and operated from Condover, Peplow and Rodington Heath airfields.
"We wore all the protective gear needed for that role," he said.
He moved to doing doing maritime pollution patrol including the Piper Alpha oil rig disaster and flew ad hoc day/night freight in Europe. He then began doing overnight parcel deliveries.
John became suddenly, mysteriously ill in the spring of 1990 but carried on flying until 2005 when he lost his medical licence and his licence to fly, aged only 49.
In early 2006, John was tested with 26 other pilots for toxic cabin air poisoning by his union Balpa and Professor Sarah Mackenzie Ross of University College London.
"I was told I had been suffering from ‘Aerotoxic Syndrome’ and after a small amount of investigation, I soon realised that this still little-known illness had been first identified in 1999 by a US doctor, a French forensic scientist and an Australian toxicologist.
"For the past 16 years, I've been raising awareness with many others by supporting survivors and working to have the illness finally recognised."
John fought his way back to health and was able to reinstate his flying licence and flying instructor rating in 2014. He has since written four books on Aerotoxic Syndrome and his early flying in Shropshire, as well as campaigning for official recognition of the condition and for the installation of air quality sensors in all public transport jet aircraft.