A PILOT who had a narrow escape after they suddenly experienced disturbing symptoms mid-flight near Moree is likely to have suffered carbon monoxide poisoning, an investigation has revealed.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) released its findings in a report after a pilot who had planned to fly from Moree to Scone on the afternoon of September 23 last year fell ill.
The pilot reported feeling dizziness, breathlessness, confusion, disorientation and a warm feeling in their chest before noticing changes in a disposable carbon monoxide detector.
"An exhaust leak likely exposed the pilot to elevated levels of carbon monoxide in the aircraft cabin, resulting in mild incapacitation," the ATSB investigation found.
As part of the serious incident investigation, engineers ran tests on the plane and inspected it, and a submission from the pilot was considered.
Despite no "obvious breaches" being found that would allow the gas to waft into the cabin, the symptoms reported by the pilot were likely associated with carbon monoxide poisoning, the report said.
Repairs to parts of the exhaust system were made and further testing confirmed carbon monoxide was not leaking.
The findings caused the ATSB to release a fresh warning for pilot safety.
It "strongly encouraged" operators of piston engine planes to install a carbon monoxide detector with an active warning.
If the poisonous gas is detected or if symptoms develop, the pilot should turn off heating, open air vents and windows, and land as soon as possible.
The pilot involved in this incident managed to land in Moree safely after turning the Piper PA-28 aircraft around about 19km outside the town.
The pilot was taken to hospital for treatment but escaped lasting injuries.
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