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  Do You Have a CO Detector? (If not, check this out)



Do You Have a CO Detector? Every pilot is trained in private pilot training how insidious and deadly CO is and how easy CO can enter the cabin via single engine heater system malfunctions, twin-engine 100LL burning nose heaters and just plain old exhaust leaks that can get in the cabin.



The FAA now "recommends" that aircraft owners install a CO detector in their aircraft via this SAIB


This SAIB is in response to a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation of an accident on December 17, 2000, where a Beech Model BE-23 aircraft impacted terrain killing the commercial-rated pilot, the sole occupant of the airplane. The NTSB determined the probable cause of the accident was in part “the pilot’s incapacitation due to carbon monoxide (CO) and a fractured muffler.”


Read the FAA CO Detection and Prevention Report HERE


CSOBeech visitor Paul S. has the following thoughts on CO:


VERY informative...... WITHOUT an exhaust system failure....(( from appendix B ))


==> panel mounted CO detectors are the best indicators, across the board, based on location.

==> lower left at pilot's legs in a low wing is consistently the highest level reading location.

==> low wing aircraft have twice the LEVEL of recorded CO in normal operations as high wing.

==> low wing aircraft have twice the NUMBER of recorded CO events in normal operations as high wing.

==> alarm levels should be set at 35ppm


I have been chasing a slight CO intrusion with certain vent/heat/air settings in my N35.

I have determined that the left wing fresh air vent is a major culprit on the ground & in climb.

Peaks have been at 75ppm.

My wife & I both can "feel" anything above 20ppm after a few minutes.

I have purchased a CO Guardian panel unit that will display 10ppm and higher.

I have been using an UEi calibrated hand-held CO detector/recorder in flight.

If I close all my fresh air vents & the front heat vents (leaving only heat or unheated air coming out at the back seat footwell, my suction (hat shelf & baggage floor) draws exhaust back in from the rear fuselage thru the shoulder harness inertia reel ceiling openings.

Even LOP in cruise I can see as high as 25ppm in the back seats.


Be careful up there.




Click the below image for a larger version:




See my Kidde CO Detector Cockpit Alert unit HERE. It's CSOB available from Wal~Mart, Home Depot and Lowes for something like $30 and has a nice digital display of the CO PPM level that it is seeing.


Kidde Model #: KN-COPP-B  P/N: 900-0146 / User Manual HERE


Previously Mounted in my B55


This model CO Detector helped my buddy in his N35 Bonanza get a heads up on his exhaust system while he was flying across Florida.


After I had installed my Kidde CO Detector, my buddy Don liked it's footprint and the general idea of some CO warning device. So he got one for his N35 and not long after putting it in his plane he was on a trip with his elderly Mom from Tampa to Miami and the detector went off.


He immediately opened all the windows he could and got on the ground quickly. What he found was that his exhaust system on the right side had separated from the pipe to the inlet of the muffler. Need I say more? Imagine something like this happening at night on a long trip at cruise, let's not! Nuff said.......


Here is the one I'm using today since the one above reached "End Of Life" in 2018. A whopping $20 at any Home Depot store.



Here is another new option @ ~$100, for a compact sized panel mounted (2.7" x 2") sensitive detector available at Amazon

Recently, another CO save story surfaced from a Bonanza owner, Paul S., that had seen my Kidde CO Detector and put one of them in his recently purchased Bonanza. His pre-flight includes checking the stored values in the CO detectors memory. He found a 31 ppm value in the memory and went hunting for the source of the leak.


He stopped at Paul McCracken's (RIP) repair facility at T31 in McKinney, TX and had his exhaust system inspected. They found muffler cracks in seams that, if left undiscovered, would have created quite a problem down the road.



Here is Paul's account:


I'd stopped @ Biggs' on my way home. CO of 31ppm and some slight exhaust residue on the cabin heat SCAT. Flew to Paul McCracken's (see above muffler photo). I also run LOP & still had some low levels of CO this past winter.


Made an effort to seal up the cabin & improve the heating last annual and this winter had very low 17 to 20 ppm values. I have the V35 scoop mod for overhead fresh air, a side scoop to vent from the hat shelf AND a bottom scoop to vent from the baggage area. With partial heat cabin on, the overhead fresh air scoop taped over and the front fresh air vents taped over, I suck exhaust in thru the tail into the cabin thru holes for the shoulder harness inertia reels (also installed @ annual) Confirmed with sensitive CO monitor & various flights. Now I do not tape over the inlets, and the heat still is sufficient. No CO.


Early warning system? You bet! Remember, CO is invisible and has no detectable odor so it is incredibly insidious.


Another CO tip: Running GOP or Lean of Peak dramatically reduces CO (still unhealthy levels but reduced), so you Rich of Peak Operators take note that you have another reason to get off that fuel wasting and harmful engine operating zone.



Below is a picture of what Bonanza owner Nathan L., found after seeing that his CO detector card had turned dark!



And here is his quote: "I am switching to a mounted alarm such as the ones you find in your house. I feel lucky I saw the color in the detector change but an alarm would have alerted me sooner. i was already tired and drowsy, flying at night, and the only one awake in the plane. I shudder to think of the consequences if I had not noticed this."


Editorial Comment:

In most cases we are flying decades old equipment and components. Items like this need to be checked thoroughly for integrity as this is one of the things that can kill you and your passengers! It would be wise to perform thorough exhaust system inspections, especially on older exhaust components AND install some form of CO warning/detection device. Just my humble opinion.



Periodically test your CO Detector with this CO stimulus.


The only way to verify a CO (fire) detector is to introduce CO in the sensor in a safe form from outside, demonstrating the presence of a free flow and without obstructions in the passage from the atmosphere to the interior.


  • Genuine and non-flammable CO stimulus
  • Controlled delivery
  • Detector manufacturer approved







Beech Lister Stu B. uses the Testo 317-3 unit. A professional level instrument. Seen on Ebay brand new for $215.


Also HERE for $204 on 1/11/2009




Aeromedix has an aviation CO Detector Model #2010, currently selling for $179.



Per Aeromedix: The CO Experts Monitor model 2010 provides both audio and visual alarms starting at 7 PPM, while UL - 2034 listed CO alarms are required to begin alerts at 30 PPM! This low level alert bests all UL listed CO detectors by 23 PPM!



For other certified CO Detectors for your Aircraft see: CO GUARDIAN


Check out the FAA SAIB #CE-10-19 on CO Detectors HERE


Check out the FAA Report on CO Detection and Prevention HERE