How did this mercury get onto a passenger jet and how did it get spilled? What would be the ramifications for ETOPS? What cargo or hazmat is carried on long-haul? What damage can some hazmat do over the period of a flight? Will Mercury Vapour spills set off the cargo-hold smoke alarms? What consideration is quantity in a potential spill?

You might recall that MAS had to write-off a new A330 at KL ( it was parked there for quite a while after another such spillage - see below).

Hazmat cargo (cadmium & mercury oxide watch batteries?) was officially tied in by SAA to the mid Indian Ocean fire-caused loss of its combi 747 (despite rumours of nuclear materials being aboard).


· 26/04/2004 11:43:16

Workers hospitalised after Belfast airport mercury spill

A plane was cordoned off at Belfast City Airport and two workers taken to hospital today after a mercury spillage.

The spillage was discovered by baggage handlers as passengers left a flybe flight which arrived from Birmingham just after 8am.

However, airport authorities insisted that the 83 passengers and five crew were not at risk and they were able to collect their luggage.

It is understood two baggage handlers were taken to hospital as a precaution.

LINK What Should I do if there's a Mercury Spill?

Mercury Spill: Check-Up for Airport Workers

By Ian Graham, PA News

Six airport staff were taken to hospital today following a mercury spillage at Belfast City Airport.

They were each getting what the airport called a “precautionary check-up” after baggage handlers unloading cargo on a Flybe flight from Birmingham discovered a small mercury spill in the cargo hold.

The aircraft was cordoned off while the spillage was dealt with.

Belfast City Airport insisted that none of the passengers had been in any danger.

“At no time were any of the 83 passengers and five crew in any danger and they left the airport as normal with the baggage because luggage and cargo are kept in separate compartments in the Bae 146 aircraft involved,” said a spokesman.

Two cargo handlers and three baggage handlers were taken to Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital for check-ups and a firefighter went to the Ulster Hospital in Dundonald.

The airport continued to operate as normal but the aircraft would remain quarantined until it had been cleaned and passed fit to fly, said the spokesman.
G-BTUY now to be parted out and Scrapped
Last Updated: Monday, 26 April, 2004, 15:04 GMT 16:04 UK
Chemical spill at airport
The plane has been cordoned off while the mercury is removed

The plane has been cordoned off while the mercury is removed

Six people taken to hospital following a chemical spillage at Belfast City Airport have been given the all-clear.

They include two cargo handlers, three baggage handlers and a firefighter.

A plane has been cordoned off while the spillage is dealt with.

The mercury spillage was found while baggage handlers were unloading cargo from a Flybe flight which arrived from Birmingham shortly after 0800 BST on Monday.

Officials at Belfast City Airport said all 83 passengers and five crew were never in any danger and that the two baggage handlers had been taken to hospital as a precaution.

The two cargo handlers and three baggage handlers were taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital.

The firefighter was taken to the Ulster Hospital in Dundonald.

The plane was cordoned off while the mercury was removed and the rest of Belfast City Airport operated as normal.

The airport continues to operate as normal and the aircraft will remain quarantined until it has been cleaned and passed fit to fly
Airport spokesman

A spokesman for Belfast City Airport said: "Six Belfast City Airport staff were sent to hospital this morning for a precautionary check-up after workers unloading cargo on a Flybe flight from Birmingham discovered a small mercury spill in the cargo hold.

"Flight BE 400 arrived at 8.10am and passengers disembarked as normal. Baggage handlers spotted the mercury while unloading the cargo and contamination procedures were immediately put in place.

"This involved two cargo handlers and three baggage handlers being taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital for a precautionary check-up and a firefighter being taken to the Ulster Hospital."

The airport said all passengers and crew left the aircraft as normal with their baggage because luggage and cargo were kept in separate compartments on the plane involved.

"The airport continues to operate as normal and the aircraft will remain quarantined until it has been cleaned and passed fit to fly," said the spokesman.



  Since mercury is a molten metal, many other metals including a/c aluminum dissolve into it.

The fluid will flow into seams and rivet holes and things will start coming loose
  As the mercury appears to have been transported on the flight and was discovered on arrival, wonder if the crew got any adverse compass indications during the flight.

I know mercury is a no-no aboard aircraft, but apart from the magnetism issue can one of our chemists here explain what is the problem if it is spilled on the structure. Is it corrosive ? Didn't a Far East operator have a wide-body written off some years ago due to such a spillage ?
  Mercury is a virulent poison that is readily absorbed through the respiratory tract or through unbroken skin. It acts as a cumulative poison since only small amounts of the element can be eliminated at a time. The present accepted threshold limit for Mercury in air is 0.05 mg m-3. (NB. air saturated with mercury vapour at 20°C exceeds the toxic limit by 100 times). High concentration of vapour may cause a metallic taste, nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea and headache. Chronic effects from continual exposure to small concentrations can cause severe nervous disturbance, insomnia, loss of memory, irritability and depression. Loosening of teeth, dermatitis and kidney damage are possible in severe prolonged absorption.

Mercury can react with ammonia to produce an explosive solid. It can cause severe corrosion problems because of its ease in forming amalgams. Reacts violently with dry Bromine.

Hatters were "mad" due to the effects of mercury vapours
  You are all wrong regarding mercury and aircraft structure.

When mercury comes in contact with a metal it will form an amalgam which creates a localized hard spot. It alters the stress paths and forms a concentrated stress riser that can lead to cracks and or fractures. It is for this same reason that mercury thermometers can not be used on submarines.

Mercury although no longer in wide uses was used to amalgamate silver when used in tooth fillings. The mercury in combination with silver pellets is placed in a small container, which is placed in a “Wiggle bug” which vibrates the two metals until they are combined. The dentist will place this amalgam in a chamois. The chamois is twisted to remove the mercury and the remaining silver amalgam is put into the tooth. I’m not that smart, my brother is a dentist.


I goofed. My memory banks have been depleted.

I'm sorry about my question regarding Mercury being in the molten state. I was thinking about molten equating to high temperature. I soon remembered my high school chemistry where we reduced Mercuric oxide to Mercury and oxygen by applying heat from a Bunsen burner.

I'll now retire to the corner and don my dunce cap.

It is a metal, in the same group as magnesium, zinc and cadmium. It just happens to be in a molten state and evaporates at normal room temperatures. You can see the highly toxic vapor with UV light. It certainly amalgamates with aircraft alloys.
Where did this stuff come from? It is sealed in some lamp units, tilt switches etc as well as the more visible use in thermometers and barometers.
Was it on a HazMat list? If not, why not.


With reference to the thread on the "Saudia B747 nose gear collapse at KL, the Govnor said that other a/c in the background is also a write off because of a chemical spill.

What sort of Chemical?
Where was the Chemical spill?
What part of a/c affected?

a mercury spill in the cargo hold, similar to the Southern Air B747-200F a few years back. Whilst it was declared a constructive total loss by the insurers, the 747 was bought, repaired and is now flying for MK Airlines.

I recall a rumour about that incident within the last 2 years. The scarebus was on a flight from China to KL, when the crew noticed an offensive odour during descent. The skipper evacuated on the ground and the a/c was towed away. 3 coolies entered the hold to check it out and consequently collapsed – taken to hospital, with what results I don’t know. Then guys in full protective gear entered, and then quietly requested help from the Yanks, FAA & CIA.

Rumour I heard suggested that a package, from a chemical factory (dodgy paperwork etc. about its contents) enroute to India, sprung a leak during descent. This was just prior to Billy boy Clinton's visit there!! The rumour was, that the types of chemicals involved have a sinister application.

A330 if I remember correctly. The was an article about it in Air Cargo World (or was it Air Cargo News...?) earlier on this summer.
Some kind of powdered dangerous goods improperly packed which subsequently spilled in the belly. Loaded in Beijing if my memory serves me. $80m worth of damage, shipper hauled up by the chinese govt.

The chemical was HYDROXIL QUINOLINE. It was improperly packed and wrongfully declared by the agent in China. Shipment was for India. Spillage was in the fwd cargo area, which damaged the area and contents badly. Also affected were the engines cos when the cargo doors were open, the engines were windmilling and sucked in the fumes. The fumes damaged the engines and ductings including those of the aircond system. Damaged too expensive to repair and damage due corrosion difficult to ascertain. Best thing to do, write it off and make insurance claim.

Above is common knowledge. MAS is suing the shipper I believe.

Date: 15 MAR 2000
Time: ca 23.40
Type: Airbus A.330-322
Operator: Malaysia Airlines
Registration: 9M-MKB
Msn / C/n: 068
Year built: 1995
Engines: 2 Pratt & Whitney PW4168
Crew: 0 fatalities / 14 on board
Passengers: 0 fatalities / 252 on board
Total: 0 fatalities / 266 on board
Airplane damage: Written off
Location: Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia)
Phase: Ground
Nature: International Scheduled Passenger
Departure airport: Beijing-Capital Airport (PEK)
Destination airport: Kuala Lumpur
Flightnumber: 085
After arrival from a flight from Beijing, baggage handlers were unloading 80 canisters weighing 2,000kg when they were hit by the strong toxic fumes. A check by airport fire and rescue personnel revealed the canisters contained a chemical called "hydroxy quino-line" which is used for rust-proofing. Several canisters had leaked, causing severe damage to the aircraft fuselage. The aircraft was considered damaged beyond repair.

Source: (also check out sources used for every accident)
Daily Express
The aircraft is a write-off and MAS was compensated for about US$90 million early this year.

there is too much 'dirty stuff' being transported on flights, wrongly declared or packed (willingly to get around paying full freight charges or out of pure ignorance).

i do not want to know what other kind of DGR are being loaded onto aircrafts (does not make a difference whether pax aircraft or CAO), but IMHO we are waiting for more nasty accidents to happen.

i know the chap who was running the dangerous goods enforcement division of the German LBA (equivalent of the FAA) and stories that you hear from him (not making the news) are scary.

  from this link


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