The SAE has proposed that an independent technical committee to develop aerospace industry standards to measure cabin air quality on aircraft be set-up in the face of ongoing legal action by crew against manufacturers and operators alike.


In November 2016, IATA requested that SAE International develop a standard or standards covering portable and fixed installation sensors that would be capable of detecting and recording contaminants that might enter the cabin space.

Within the existing SAE Aerospace Standards Program, two committees, AC-9, Aircraft Environmental Systems and E-31, Aircraft Engine Gas & Particulate Emissions Measurement Bleed Air Panel have some expertise related to this requirement. Since bleed air is only one of multiple sources of potential contaminants, and as this project is quite specific and will bring in additional stakeholders from the sensor and operator communities with interests outside the broad scope of the AC-9 Committee, consideration has been given to mitigating difficulties with managing quorum and expert focus during committee proceedings and balloting process.

It is therefore proposed to create a new SAE committee, which will have a liaison with AC-9 and meet with AC-9 for operational efficiencies, to specifically address the measurement and monitoring of Cabin Air Quality.

Note: This differs significantly from European standardization attempts, through CEN TC 436, to set acceptable limits of known toxins which may enter the cabin area from external and potentially internal sources.  In contrast, the proposed SAE activity addresses the devices which could be utilized to sense and measure cabin contaminants and air quality. There is no intention to establish acceptable limits of contamination.


The Cabin Air Quality Measurement Committee is responsible for creating and maintaining standards for the measurement of air quality within the cockpit and passenger compartments.  The initial project will focus on developing a standard or standards covering portable and/or fixed installation sensors to quantitatively measure fumes and contaminants that could enter the cabin space.

The objectives of the committee are to:

  • Address the need for increased monitoring of air quality within commercial aircraft
  • Develop and publish SAE Technical Reports to measure cabin air quality
  • Define the sensitivities and accuracy of equipment used to monitor cabin air quality
  • Recommend methodologies for the download and storage of captured data


Develop an SAE standard or suite of standards for portable and/or fixed installation sensors that would be capable of measuring cabin air quality and detecting hazardous levels of deterrents.  These sensors would be utilized by trained maintenance personnel.

The SAE standard would define methodologies to a specified degree of accuracy, that will enable maintenance engineers to establish whether the cabin air has been of satisfactory quality throughout flights (including whilst on the ground).

Aspects to be addressed by the Standard(s) include:

Operational definition

  • Portable device to allow contaminant monitoring in the cabin in-flight or on ground for maintenance troubleshooting
  • Aircraft and/or battery power supplies
  • Wireless data transmission both during and at the end of a flight sortie
  • Definition of best practices for troubleshooting
  • Develop training requirements for flight, cabin and maintenance crews

Source of substances for detection

  • Engine oil, hydraulic fluid, ACM or ground de-icing causing contamination originating from the engine and APU bleed air systems


  • Existing Standards and technical papers
  • Data published in current studies to be used to identify contaminants for measurement together with sensor sensibility range

Measurement technologies

  • Validate that proven technology is available to measure defined contaminants
  • Determine appropriate sensitivities and accuracy
  • Future technologies will be reviewed as they become available and the standard will be updated as required


The following individuals or organisations have either expressed interest or will be contacted to determine willingness to participate in this initiative:

Lufthansa Technik, IATA, Honeywell, Boeing, EASA, KLM, ANA, Virgin Airlines, Quantas, Embraer, Bombardier, AFA, FAA & Transport Canada.