July 31, 2002
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A shower or two, with lengthy fine breaks
Shower or two
Fine day. Evening shower
Aircraft fume illness case settled
By Ben Ruse

A FORMER Ansett flight attendant who claimed her career was destroyed by leaking engine oil fumes has agreed to an out-of-court settlement after a three-year legal battle.

Judy Cullinane, 37, who worked for Ansett for 10 years, began legal action in 1999. She claimed her health had been damaged permanently by exposure to fumes in BAe146 planes.

Under the settlement with Ansett insurers QBE, Ms Cullinane is not able to reveal the amount settled or comment on details. But she said yesterday she was thrilled that the matter had been resolved and that she did not have to go to court.

Ms Cullinane, from Salter Point, was seriously ill twice after being exposed to fumes, in November 1997 and in January 1998.

Doctors say she still has long-term health problems, including intermittent breathing difficulties, chemical sensitivity, dermatitis, disorientation and impaired memory, which have left her unable to work.

The 80-seat BAe146s began service in Australia in 1983. In WA there are 23 used by National Jet Systems and Qantas on routes from Perth to the Kimberley, Pilbara and Goldfields.

The fume problem, caused by faulty seals which let engine oil fumes into the air-conditioning system, was first reported in 1991 with pilots and cabin staff saying they had been overcome.

In 1996, Ansett sought outside medical advice and set up an independent panel, including safety regulators. It found the toxic levels on the jets were thousands of times lower than international standards. A Senate report in 2000 found no need to ground the planes, which had been repaired to stop the problem, but recommended stringent monitoring of cabin air quality.

Ms Cullinane's lawyer, Hayden Stephens from Slater & Gordon, said he did not know of any other cases of flight attendants suing airlines, although one was suing the plane's manufacturer.

Although Ansett had collapsed, its insurance company still honoured claims made before its demise, he said.

The two airlines which currently operate BAe146 aircraft say that they are now safe for passengers and crew. However, last year the Air Transport Safety Board investigated three incidents of fumes in the planes. In one, a pilot had to be taken to hospital after landing.

Fumes win for Ansett attendant

A FORMER Ansett flight attendant who suffered health problems from aircraft fumes has won an out-of-court settlement from the defunct airline's insurers.

 BAE 146

Judy Cullinane was one of a number of Ansett workers around Australia who sued the airline, claiming their health was affected by fumes seeping into BAe146 aircraft.

Some have received workers' compensation but it is believed Mrs Cullinane, of Perth, is the first to win compensation in settlement of a lawsuit.

She alleged the BAe146's airconditioning was not properly sealed, allowing engine fumes to enter the cabin. She suffered long-term headaches, nausea, hair loss and lethargy and was unable to resume work after sick leave.

Mrs Cullinane's solicitor, Hayden Stephens of Slater and Gordon, said his client's life had been blighted by her injuries.

"Fortunately Mrs Cullinane will be properly compensated for lost income and medical expenses for injuries she suffered through no fault of her own," Mr Stephens said.

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