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Interview with Robert Swankhuizen

On September 12, 2023, Luchtvaartnieuws published an interview with Robert Swankhuizen, chairman of the Dutch Association of Aviation Technicians (NVLT), and a member of the National Cabin Air Quality Advisory Group (NAC).

In the interview with Paul Eldering of, Mr. Swankhuizen discusses several current issues in aviation, including the announced downsizing of Schiphol, the ongoing shortage of ground technicians, negotiations for collective labor agreements (CAOs) with KLM, and various operational challenges. He also expresses his ‘concerns about toxic cocktails’ to which ground personnel are regularly exposed. The following is an excerpt from the interview:


>>Concerns about Toxic Cocktails

Swankhuizen, who is a member of the National Cabin Air Quality Advisory Group (NAC) but also has his own opinions as a union leader, is also concerned about the exposure to toxins in and around aircraft engines. This can affect not only cabin crew and pilots in the form of bleed air with oil leaks during flights (known as fume events and foul-smelling sock odors) but, according to him, also technicians on the aircraft and on the ground. “The aerotoxic syndrome is lurking as an occupational disease, although extensive research is still being conducted on scientifically recognized causal relationships. They are expected to be absolutely evident from the workplace.”

Swankhuizen says, “It’s not just about TCPs, which affect the nervous system, but many more harmful substances, including fine particulate matter. In essence, very toxic cocktails. According to labor law, we are rightfully not allowed to use our noses to detect leaks. So, sensors must be installed. And training and better reporting procedures with swift action. And possibly air filters later on. We also want the aerotoxic medical protocol, which has been internationally agreed upon, to be translated into a concrete NAC advisory this year. So that victims have legal backup and specialized assistance.”

According to Swankhuizen, aviation technicians know better than anyone what strange odors a long-sealed aircraft can bring. “When we open the door upon arrival of a flight, we often encounter a wall of odor. It is therefore crucial to improve the quality of cabin air. This also applies to the platform and hangar.”

The NVLT president emphasizes that aviation technicians are professionals. “We assume that they use personal protective equipment and always use common sense when it comes to their own health.”

According to Swankhuizen, simple solutions to minimize exposure to harmful substances on airport platforms include strategic electric taxiing and towing aircraft without running engines from the gate to the runway and vice versa. “Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” he believes.<<


Read the full interview via the link below:

NVLT: The Hague and Airlines far too lenient