Biosecurity? Australian federal lab sues contractor after fridge power left off, rare samples destroyed

A simple flick of the switch has allegedly cost the CSIRO millions of dollars and destroyed years of painstaking research

airplane.plug.johnnyIn an extraordinary civil case, the government’s national science agency is suing an occupational safety company for accidentally leaving the power off to a fridge containing extremely rare samples collected for plant and crop research.

Scientists at the CSIRO’s Black Mountain complex first noticed something was wrong in February 2006. 

A distinct smell was coming from a fridge in the Herbarium Microbiology Laboratory.

The fridge was used to store a rare collection of rhizobia, soil bacteria that live on the roots of legumes, helping to fix nitrogen in a process called “biological nitrogen fixation”.

The CSIRO says the collection, being used for advanced crop research, took years to collect and was worth “many millions” of dollars.

Some of the strains were obtained from the most remote, arid areas of Australia.

Upon investigation of the smell, a scientist quickly found the fridge to be turned off at the power point.

The CSIRO has launched action in the ACT Supreme Court against four defendants, Testel Australia Pty Ltd, Thermal Air Services Pty Ltd, and two associated individuals.

It alleged that the power was turned off to enable equipment to be plugged into a testing device, before being plugged back in at the wall. 

The power switch, however, was allegedly never turned back on.

Sheep farts forced plane to make emergency landing

This story couldn’t be any more Australian unless Mr. G was dancing with the sheep (thanks Courtlynn for the link).

 sheep.fartA Singapore airlines Boeing 747 from Sydney was forced to make an unexpected stopover after methane gas set off the fire alarm .

The Aviation Herald reports the cargo flight from Australia to Kuala Lumpur, with 4 crew and 2,186 sheep on-board, was flying just to the south of Indonesia when the smoke alarms sounded on October 26.

Crew on-board SQ-7108 descended the aircraft immediately and diverted to Bali where they landed about 45 minutes later.

Emergency services didn’t find any trace of fire or smoke and identified the cause to be the result of exhaust gasses and manure produced by the sheep. 

Tracking outbreaks through airplane poop

A team of far too curious Danish researchers has been collecting feces from airplane bathrooms to study bacteria by region, which could help scientists understand disease outbreaks.

airplane.shurleyTo conduct the study, the scientists literally transported feces back to a lab where they fed it through a DNA sequencing machine. The technology reveals antimicrobial resistance genes and any pathogens. From this data, they are able to analyze any patterns occurring in the plane’s country of origin.

For example, scientists detected far more genetic microbial resistance among people from South America. They even found specific differences between certain bacteria like Salmonella, which occurred more frequently in South Asia versus Clostridium, which was more common in North America.

As far as outbreaks, the report showed that analyzing feces could be a faster way to detect an epidemic than just analyzing doctor reports because the DNA sequencing shows sudden spikes in certain bacteria.

Dining on a private jet: is catering an issue?

As I cool my heels at the Brisbane airport, reading the latest issue of Corporate Jet Investor (I fly commercial) the question is asked, when you are paying upwards of $8,000 an hour to charter a large-cabin private jet, bad food is something that can no longer be excused.

surely.serious.airplaneDaniel Hulme, CEO of On Air Dining, based at Stansted Airport’s Diamond Hangar says he is concerned about the business aviation industry’s blasé attitude towards food safety; he tells stomach-churning stories about corporate flight attendants that pick up hot food from high-end restaurants only to transport it in the back of a taxi and store it the aircraft’s lavatory before re-heating. But when most private jet flights last less than two hours, it is easy to understand why catering is not being discussed at the dinner table.

Alex Wilcox, CEO of California-based operator JetSuite, says he will happily liaise with local restaurants whenever a passenger requests an inflight meal, but as an operator of short-range private jets, he says: “For those that want a meal on board we will handle that, but it is not a massive issue.”

Likewise, Wheels Up, which operates a large fleet of King Air 350i turboprops, will soon allow its members to book catering using a smartphone app, but David Baxt, president, says that for such short haul flights, passengers rarely request anything more than light snacks.

For VistaJet, which includes much larger private jet types such as the Bombardier Global 6000 in its fleet, the story is very different. “I never understand why business jet operators order catering from the airport; you get plastic trays with a cheese board. It is not what you would do if you were taking friends on a picnic,” says Thomas Flohr, founder and chairman. “Our clients all have favourite restaurants across the world and expect more when they are flying.”

airplane_jiveThe story goes on to say that for Hulme, it is absurd that a multinational corporation could fly its executives on a private jet to an important business meeting, only to risk them spending two days doubled-up in a hotel room with food poisoning.

“I’m surprised that more people don’t get food poisoning. I’m sure it is happening a lot, but people don’t really talk about it,” Hulme says.

“I don’t understand why there isn’t more emphasis on the training of flight attendants to make sure that they all have food certificates, which isn’t a requirement in business aviation, but it really, really should be.”

One veteran charter broker says that he agrees in principal, but feels it is not a big issue: “I have been booking charter flights for 20 years and we have never had a case of food poisoning. In my experience the ground handling companies take this very seriously and only use approved companies.”

An integral part of private jet catering is the relationship between the caterer and the corporate flight attendant, with the involvement of the flight attendant varying greatly from one flight to another. Sophie Fry, a UK-based corporate flight attendant, says: “You take responsibility of everything from sourcing catering and writing menus to buying supplies for the aircraft.”

Poop on a plane forces turnaround

Virgin Australia has said no human waste was sloshing down the aisle of a flight from Los Angeles to Sydney, contrary to passenger reports.

airplane.shurleyFlight VA2 turned around when liquid from the bathrooms was found in the aisle. 

“The onboard toilets operate on a completely separate drainage system. As the issue was with the aircraft sink, and not the toilets, there was no incident of leaked human waste,” Virgin said.

The plane was turned around for passenger comfort, so they did not “have to deal with that issue”.

It landed in Los Angeles at 4.09am local time on Tuesday.

Passengers report they were forced to wear masks for three hours due to the stench.

Christchurch resident Julia Malley told Newstalk ZB the smell was “unbearable”.

“We could see it [human waste] go through the aisles, like it was very obvious,” she said.

The flight was then bound for Christchurch in New Zealand.

Virgin Australia said in a statement: “sinks on board were leaking.”

Dog poops on plane, US Airways flight makes emergency landing

I’m as sensitive, if not more so, to the sight and smell of poop and barf. But on a plane, I get it together, like when a daughter barfed beside me upon landing: went into the barf bag, and I casually strolled out and deposited the gift in the garbage.

dog_vomitFlight 598 was already two hours late when it took off from Los Angeles International Airport.

Things went downhill from there.

A terrible smell spread through the cabin. And it got worse.

The source? A service dog, belonging to a passenger, heeded nature’s call smack in the center aisle. And then the mutt pooped again.

Then the passengers started vomiting.

Disgusted passengers took to Twitter Wednesday to voice their displeasure. Especially after the pilot announced they would be making an emergency landing in Kansas City, Mo., because the plane had run out of paper towels and the mess was clogging the aisle.

“The second time after the dog pooped they ran out of paper towels, they didn’t have anything else,” passenger Steve McCall told “Inside Edition.”

“The pilot comes on the radio, ‘Hey, we have a situation in the back, we’re going to have to emergency land!'” McCall recalled.

Micaela Connery tweeted “after being delayed 2 hours we get grounded because of dog poop on the plane. A 7 hour trip is now pushing 14.”

Real-life Airplane as passenger lands plane after pilot ill

I first saw the 1980 movie Airplane at the drive-in. I thought it was dumb, because I was more interested in the girl I was with. I’ve since re-watched about 30 times, and it’s in my top-5 movies of all time (World According to Garp, Wonderboys, American Beauty, O Brother Where Art Though round out the current list).

Whatever plot there was in Airplane revolved around passengers stricken with food poisoning.

That plot seems to have been borne out in real life after the pilot of a small plane fell ill at the controls and two flight instructors were called in to the airport to give his only passenger a crash course in not crashing.

The man—who had no flying experience—managed to bring the plane in for a safe, though somewhat bumpy, landing at England’s Humberside Airport. “He made quite a good landing actually,” one of the flight instructors tells the BBC.

Flyer, fart away; good families don’t unless you’re on a plane

The morning ritual involves plopping on the couch to ply through information while Sorenne has some milk, gets oriented and watches Blinkey Bill.

good.families.don'tThen, she farts.

Loudly.

We all do, in a way that reminds me of Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector, when he asks, you ever fart so hard your back cracks?

Apparently, when people fly, changes in air pressure at altitude result in the gut producing more gas.

When Danish gastroenterologist Jacob Rosenberg encountered the malodorous problem first-hand on a flight from Copenhagen to Tokyo, he enlisted some of the finest minds in his field to address the issue. The result was an in-depth review of scientific literature on flatulence, looking at issues such as whether women’s farts smell worse than men’s (yes), what causes the odour (sulphur) and how often the average person passes wind every day (10).

The bottom line, according to the 3,000-word study published in the New Zealand Medical Journal on Friday, is that airline passengers should ignore the social embarrassment of breaking wind and “just let it go”. “(Holding back) holds significant drawbacks for the individual, such as discomfort and even pain, bloating, dyspepsia (indigestion), pyrosis (heartburn) just to name but a few resulting abdominal symptoms,” the study found. “Moreover, problems resulting from the required concentration to maintain such control may even result in subsequent stress symptoms.”

The authors—five gastroenterologists from Denmark and Britain—said that while passengers may experience poor service from the cabin crew as a result of their decision, the health benefits outweighed any negative impacts. However, they said the cockpit crew faced a lose-lose situation. “On the one hand, if the pilot restrains a fart, all the drawbacks previously mentioned, including impaired concentration, may affect his abilities to control the plane,” the researchers said. “On the other hand, if he lets go of the fart, his co-pilot may be affected by its odour, which again reduces safety onboard the flight.”

“We humbly propose that active charcoal should be embedded in the seat cushion, since this material is able to neutralise the odour,” they said. “Moreover active charcoal may be used in trousers and blankets to emphasise this effect.” Air New Zealand declined to comment.

Did pilot who passed out during flight have food poisoning?

Doctors believe food poisoning or a flu virus caused an Alaska Airlines pilot to pass out on a Seattle-bound flight that was diverted to Portland otto.airplaneThursday night, an airline spokeswoman said.

Alaska Airlines Flight 473 from Los Angeles to Seattle landed in Portland Thursday night after the pilot passed out. The copilot landed the Boeing 737 safely at Portland International Airport shortly after 9 p.m. and the pilot was taken to the hospital, officials said.

No one was injured.