What Is the Best CO Detector for Aircraft?
The most suitable carbon monoxide detector for aircraft pilots should be:
- Small and portable, easy to carry and mount.
- Battery-operated to reduce installation, mounting, and detachment time.
- Digital to provide readout CO levels with audible and buzzer alarms.
- Early warning alarm protocol, which means the detector should have a low-level CO preset alarm level.
Since aircraft cabins are small, CO can build up very quickly and interfere with the pilot’s flying ability. Therefore, a low-level alarm threshold is paramount for early warning.
An FAA study showed that CO levels in a cabin are typically less than 10 ppm. It is necessary that your CO monitor has a digital display and low-level alarms.
Three CO detectors for aircraft includes:
- Aircraft Carbon Monoxide Detector by Forensics Detectors
- Tocsin Carbon Monoxide Cockpit Monitor by Otis
- Portable Carbon Monoxide Detector by Sensorcon
What Are the Top CO Detector Considerations?
The comparison video above was not performed with calibrated carbon monoxide gas. As such, we believe that the test methodology is flawed. However, the video highlights some important CO detector considerations to keep on your radar.
- Accuracy: Calibration accuracy is very important. A higher reading detector does not necessarily mean “better.” To definitively determine accuracy, a known gas concentration from a NIST gas calibration bottle should be used.
- Atmospheric pressure influences: As altitude increases, the partial pressures of gases change and the sensor must respond accurately. The Forensics Detectors aircraft detector was tested and certified for accuracy up to 30,000 feet alongside Dr. Lindell Weaver, CO Expert and Hyperbaric expert at the Intermountain Medical Center in Salt Lake City.
- Sensor life: Most detectors for the aircraft market have a limited life of 2 years. The Forensics Detectors CO detector is rated for at least 3 years but can operate for at least another year if taken care of (i.e., stored and operated within temperature and humidity specs).
- End of life documentation: Pilots want to have an expiry date on their CO detector so they can enter replacement dates on their service calendar and or logbooks and not leave it up to “chance.”
- Price: Our survey shows that price is also essential. We kept the costs as low as possible and found that less than $100 was a feasible price point.
Can I Use a Home CO Detector for Aircraft?
No, that is a bad idea. A typical CO home detector will not suffice as it will alarm too late for such a small confined space. A home CO alarm is programmed to alarm at 70 ppm in 60 minutes. This is way too slow and the alarm trigger point is too high. The video shown below highlights the difference.
Our Pick: Forensics Detectors Carbon Monoxide Detector
Forensics Detectors has specifically designed a carbon monoxide detector for aircraft use.
The device is manufactured with a high-quality Japanese electrochemical sensor. It is programmed to alarm at 9 ppm in 60 seconds compared to a home CO detector, which alarms at 70 ppm in 60 minutes. Quick and low level alarming is aimed to limit CO exposure from exhaust leaks, faulty heating, or polluted air from entering a cabin. Even low levels of carbon monoxide can cause headaches, nausea, and fatigue that can adversely affect a pilot’s ability to control their aircraft.
What Do Customers Think?
We use this device in our two airplanes as CO is a great danger in an airplane. It is the best. Over the years I have tried several different units made by other companies. Some are cheap cardboard with a dot to turn color with CO. Others are expensive and some are very expensive and turn themselves off after 2 years,…even it you turn the device off after each flight. The Forensics CO monitors are small yet give a very visible warning and audio. The pricing is great as it is 1/3 the price of the “best” monitor I have previously purchased. The only thing missing on this unit is a warning of “end of life”. No worries as we will buy two more when that happens. We have one in each plane, mounted to be in the line of sight of the pilot. Highly recommended….
We use this device in several of our aircraft and we are very happy with them. The level indicator is easily readable in the cockpit and the alarm can be heard even when wearing a standard passive headset (23 dB noise reduction). In addition to the small size and weight, the biggest advantage is the low-level, short time response alarm to alert the pilot to the hazard. We changed from the passive stick-on monitors due to an event which highlighted the need for a more responsive, accurate annunciator of the hazard. This unit fills the need at a very affordable cost.
I highly recommend that all pilots get one, or something similar. I am sure it saved my bacon. I installed it after getting headaches and had been meaning to. I guess most Cessna 150’s have a bit of CO, but mine alarmed the first time I used it. Discovered a cracked cylinder while fixing the small unnoticed crack in the exhaust manifold. You do need to have it right in your vision though, as you will not hear the alarm or see the little flashing light if its not straight in your vision scan.
Where Is the Best Place to Mount a Carbon Monoxide Detector in My Aircraft Cabin?
- Place in a location where the pilot can easily observe the warning signals of the CO detector.
- Do not place it in direct sunlight.
- Ensure it is always visible to the pilot.
- Do not mount on air vents, as the temperature changes may affect proper operation.
Below is a picture sent by a customer, showing his CO detector properly mounted on the instrument panel.
About The Author
Dr. Koz is the President of FORENSICS DETECTORS, where the company operates from the scenic Palos Verdes Peninsula in Los Angeles, California. He is a subject matter expert on gas sensor technology, gas detectors, gas meters, and gas analyzers. He has been designing, building, manufacturing and testing toxic gas detection systems for over 20 years.
Every day is a blessing for Dr. Koz. He loves to help customers solve their unique problems. Dr. Koz also loves spending time with his wife and his three children going to the beach, grilling burgers, and having a cold beer.
Read more about Forensics Detections here.
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