Packaging company guilty of safety breaches when offering ‘dangerous goods’ for carriage on an aircraft

Date: 20 August 2012

A West London packaging company has been fined £25,000 and £6,630 costs at Isleworth Crown Court for attempting to transport improperly packed dangerous goods on a cargo flight from Heathrow airport in August 2011. Angel Case and Packing Company Limited pleaded guilty to the offence at an earlier hearing, following a prosecution by the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

The Court heard Angel Case had not complied with safety requirements for packing a consignment of 51 chemical oxygen generators, which are classified as dangerous goods under international law. The generators were due to be shipped to Italy on behalf of a client. Concerns were raised by a staff member of the courier company DHL, as the consignment was inspected before being loaded onto a cargo aircraft. A CAA Dangerous Goods Inspector subsequently found the consignment to be unsafe and a potential risk to the aircraft.

The 51 COGs were being packed by Angel Case on behalf of a specialist aircraft spares and services company based in Weybridge, Surrey.

Chemical oxygen generators (COGs) are the devices which provide oxygen to airline passengers in the event of a depressurisation. When fitted to an aircraft, in accordance with airworthiness requirements, these devices are safe. But if they are shipped in cargo without complying with requirements for the safe transport of dangerous goods they pose an extreme risk to the safety of an aircraft and its occupants. This was illustrated in 1996 when a ValuJet DC-9 passenger flight crashed into the Florida Everglades. All 105 passengers and 5 flight crew were killed. The aircraft was carrying 144 COGs as cargo. They were loosely packed within five unmarked cardboard boxes; bubblewrap had been wrongly used as cushioning on the top of each box and the boxes were not secured within the cargo hold. Safety investigators found that the activation of one or more COGs in the cargo compartment initiated a fire on the aircraft which led to flight control failure. In the aftermath of this crash, COGs were prohibited from being carried as cargo on passenger aircraft.

Speaking after the sentence, Matt Lee, Head of Aviation Regulation Enforcement at the CAA, said: “We welcome today’s sentence which reinforces the importance of adhering to the requirements which are in place to ensure dangerous goods can be carried safely by air. As the tragic crash in Florida in 1996 shows, chemical oxygen generators can be incredibly dangerous if not shipped correctly..”

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Notes to Editors:

1. The case way heard at Isleworth Crown Court on Friday 17 August 2012. Angel Case had pleaded guilty at a hearing at Uxbridge Magistrate’s Court on 17 July 2012 to one breach of the Air Navigation (Dangerous Goods) Regulations 2002.

2. The CAA is the UK's specialist aviation regulator. Its activities include: making sure that the aviation industry meets the highest technical and operational safety standards; preventing holidaymakers from being stranded abroad or losing money because of tour operator insolvency; planning and regulating all UK airspace; and regulating airports, air traffic services and airlines and providing advice on aviation policy from an economic standpoint.