Lawsuit: Plane filled with carbon monoxide and 'wet sock' smell, causing pilot to pass out

By Nicholas Malfitano | Dec 7, 2018


PITTSBURGH – A pilot for a California airline says he finds himself grounded by not receiving medical clearance to return to his job, due to medical complications resulting from negligent, prolonged carbon monoxide exposure in the planes he was flying.

Jeremy Ravotti of Leechburg filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania on Nov. 28 versus OneJet, Inc. of Larkspur, Calif.

The suit concerns the airplanes’ allegedly-defective “bleed air” system, one which regulates the air entering the cabin and cockpit after making contact with the plane’s engines. It can become contaminated with heated jet engine oil and toxic byproducts, increase the temperature throughout the airplane and produce fumes having a “dirty” or “wet sock” smell.

Ravotti was hired by Contour Flight Management as a pilot in January 2016 and began flying OneJet aircrafts in August of that year. In November 2016, the N102NS aircraft suffered from multiple maintenance issues, such as the inability to regulate temperature in the cabin and cockpit and that same smell throughout the aircraft, the suit says

“As it would later turn out, the temperature issues and odors within the aircraft were caused by problems with, and defects in, their aircraft’s air system, including the engine seal that is used to separate exhaust from the air and air that is pumped in from the atmosphere,” the suit states.

In January 2017, Ravotti says he was flying the plane from Milwaukee to Pittsburgh and encountered the aforementioned problems. After taking measures to try to control the temperature, Ravotti donned an oxygen mask and goggles – which he said was the last thing he remembered until he woke up in a room at Heritage Valley Hospital in Sewickley, the suit says.

“As it turns out, plaintiff became incoherent, incapacitated and subsequently passed out while attempting to control the temperature in the N102NS aircraft as a result of carbon monoxide and/or organophosphates being present in the cockpit,” the suit states.

“Plaintiff’s second in command was able to land the aircraft in Pittsburgh and both he and plaintiff were taken to Heritage Valley Hospital where plaintiff was treated for syncope due to carbon monoxide exposure. Subsequent to his discharge from Heritage Valley Hospital, plaintiff went to various physicians (including specialists) and hospitals in January and February 2017 for symptoms that included gray complexion, blue dye being omitted from his pores, head pain, burning sensations, shortness of breath, dizziness and nausea.”

After two months away, Ravotti returned to work but says he suffered continued and recurring symptoms (which needed further medical treatment), since the planes had allegedly not been repaired for the injurious technical issues mentioned in the lawsuit.

“Then on Nov. 17, 2017, plaintiff again presented to Dr. Lambrou. During that visit, Dr. Lambrou wrote a letter indicating that plaintiff did not meet FAA certification criteria and was ‘illegal to fly.’ Dr. Lambrou also indicated in his Nov. 17 letter that he was unable to provide a timetable for the resolution of plaintiff’s current situation. Dr. Lambrou’s letter effectively meant that plaintiff could no longer operate as a pilot and fly any aircraft until further notice from the FAA,” according to the lawsuit.

On Dec. 3, it was announced the action had been designated for placement into the Court’s Alternative Dispute Resolution program.  

For negligence, the plaintiff is seeking damages in excess of $75,000, plus interest, cost of suit, punitive damages and any other damages deemed proper by the Court, in addition to a trial by jury.

The plaintiff is represented by Michael A. O’Leary of The Archinaco Firm, in Pittsburgh.

The defendant has not yet secured legal counsel, according to Court records.

U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania case 2:18-cv-01598

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at nick.malfitano@therecordinc.com

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