My fears for passengers and pilots facing chemical poisoning

A former airline captain from Fenny Compton has set up an organisation to warn people of the danger of noxious fumes on passenger flights.

John Hoyte retired from a 16-year flying career in 2005, having suffered various neurological problems, fatigue, exhaustion, slurred speech and a feeling of intoxication for much of this time.

The 53-year-old put it down to the anti-social hours he was flying.

But after talking to his GP, he underwent medical tests at University College London, which found both he and 26 other pilots had chemical toxic poisoning – known as 'aerotoxic syndrome'.

Determined to prevent this happening to other aircrew and passengers, Mr Hoyte founded the Aerotoxic Association in 2007 and has campaigned to raise awareness of the dangers of 'fume events', which happen on one in every 100 flights.

He said: "Not many people realise that the air inside an aircraft is taken from the jet engine, but when the engine goes wrong fumes can get into the air.

"About 196,000 UK passengers a year are being exposed but neither they nor their GPs know about this serious issue.

"That's around 500 passengers per day.

"It's a scary thought that the industry and the government know all about it.

"I got so angry when I found out what was going on and I have been joined by many people from around the world who are trying to make others more aware of mysterious illnesses after flying.

"There are court cases in the USA, it's known as the best-kept secret in aviation."

The Aerotoxic Association's website gives details of the causes, symptoms and dangers of the syndrome.

It also contains stories from those who have suffered like Mr Hoyte, and updates on industry and political developments in addressing the issue.

Visitors to the site can buy protective facemasks and a DVD documentary called Welcome Aboard Toxic Airlines.

Mr Hoyte travelled to Washington DC this week to speak at a conference about the problem and to give an interview on the television network Fox News.

The BBC has also been following the group's progress for a forthcoming programme.

Mr Hoyte said: "We are not anti-flying, we are for safe flying".

Having recovered from many of his symptoms, Mr Hoyte hopes he can one day fly non-pressurised private aircraft.

He said: "For people not to believe you – when you say you are ill – is very difficult.

"It was getting a bit horrible with low-cost flying anyway but I miss many aspects of it.

"But flying for me is like riding a bike."