Pilot fights for Aerotoxic Syndrome to be officially recognised
When John Hoyte left Shropshire as a pilot in 1987 little did he know the battle he was to have with a serious illness he says was brought on by flying jets across Europe.
John, 65, has returned to the county to continue his campaign to have Aerotoxic Syndrome - adverse health effects experienced by aircrew exposed to contaminated aircraft air - recognised.
He has written books about the condition and runs the Aerotoxic Association to help other sufferers.
Now he is appealing for help in getting justice for people like himself.
John's flying career began in Shropshire in the 1980s when he flew aerial crop spraying aircraft for Hodges & Moss of Shrewsbury, and operated from Condover, High Ercall and Rodington Heath airfields.
"We wore all the protective gear needed for that role," he said.
"By 1987 the trend and efficiency of aerial spraying was being put under pressure so I moved to Warwickshire to be closer to the main airports of Birmingham, Coventry and Stansted.
"I flew the DC-3 Dakota and twin engine Cessnas for Air Atlantique from 1987-1989 doing maritime pollution patrol and did ad hoc day/night freight around Europe. I then changed to flying the BAe 146 jet for TNT around Europe at night on parcel delivery."
But John became suddenly, mysteriously ill in the spring of 1990 and told no one.
"I flew for nine years on night flying, but my ill health intensified such that by 1998 I was seriously, invisibly ill - like a drunken, inebriated pilot - and changed to day passenger or ‘self loading freight’ flying with Flybe at Birmingham Airport. I was so ill, but still told no one as I acted my part.
"I would then fly for a further seven years until 2005, when I suddenly lost my medical and licence to fly. The rest of 2005 was like a nightmare as I’d lost my special job and felt I’d let my family down by not having a job.
In early 2006, John was tested for toxic cabin air poisoning by his union Balpa and Dr Sarah Mackenzie Ross of University College London.
"I was told I had been suffering from ‘Aerotoxic Syndrome’ and after small amount of investigation, I soon realised that this 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 by supporting other survivors and working to have the illness formally accepted."
His fight back to health began when he visited Dr Sarah Myhill, from Llangunllo, near Knighton, who helped sheep dip farmers who were poisoned in the 1990s with organophosphate poisoning.
John founded the Aerotoxic Association in 2007, launched at the House of Parliament with several other pilots.
He was able to reinstate his flying licence and flying instructor rating in 2014 and wrote his first book, Aerotoxic Syndrome – Aviation’s Darkest Secret.
"I also helped produce a fictional film, A Dark Reflection, by investing £75,000 and filmed the first five minutes in Jordan, foretelling the end game of Aerotoxic," he said.
There came a second book, ‘A Tale of Two Ag Pilots’ followed then a third last year, 'How Planes Poison You, Aerotoxic Syndrome' and finally 'Aerotoxic Pandemic'.
The association is fighting to have the syndrome acknowledged as an occupational disease and John hopes his future will involve his Aerotoxic Consultancy business advising doctors, lawyers, scientists and the public.
He added: "I know that I can rebuild my life again with specialist help from other local experts in administration, publishing and finance - as I feel as physically well now as I did in 1987 - when I mistakenly left Shropshire for what I thought was a safer flying career."
Anyone who feels able to help John in his quest for justice can contact him at aerotoxic.org