Carbon Monoxide Detectors for Aviation

Carbon monoxide and aviation are often a deadly combination.  There have been many tragic examples carbon monoxide poisoning involving aircraft, so the threat is real.  If you should happen to suffer from carbon monoxide poisoning while piloting an airplane, the consequences could be catastrophic. You can’t just carbon monoxide in avationopen the door and exit the aircraft, so you need as much advance notice as you can get that there is a problem. That is why we strongly recommend that you monitor the carbon monoxide level in your cockpit with a portable, low-level carbon monoxide detector that is designed for that purpose.

While there are many of these on the market, we have two that we recommend. They are both instrument-grade devices built to handle the rigors of portable use, and they are significantly cheaper than competing products. We feel that these are the best choices for aviation use and will provide the protection you are looking for. Pick the one you like best and use it every time you fly.



 Sensorcon CO InspectorSensorcon CO Inspector

This rugged little unit is slightly larger than the Pocket CO, but it brings other features that the first one lacks. It quickly responds to changing CO levels and will read ambient CO from 0 to 1999 ppm. The electronics inside are waterproof and dust proof (although the sensor is not), and it is built in the USA.

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Pocket CO DetectorPocket CO with keys

This tiny, portable low-level carbon monoxide detector is a serious entry into the market. Its small size and weight make it ideal for use in travel – driving, flying, going anywhere. It can be attached to a set of keys or clipped on your clothing. Despite its name, it is not designed to be used in your pocket. It needs to be exposed to the air you breathe to work as intended. It does need to be calibrated once per year, or returned to the factory for a full refurbishment. A handy, unobtrusive, vigilant device that works well.

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Why You Need One

In an airplane, the most common source of carbon monoxide in the cockpit is an engine exhaust leak into the cabin heat system. This can happen from cracks or failed welds in the metal components. Once carbon monoxide starts leaking in this way, it will continue to do so, and the CO level will start rising. You need as much warning as you can get that this is occurring so that you can take corrective action before you have a serious problem, since your options are so limited. A low-level carbon monoxide detector, like the ones above, is your best defense against carbon monoxide poisoning.  It will warn you when the CO levels are still manageable and your senses are not impaired.

If you ever do find that you are experiencing rising CO levels while flying, the first thing you should do is turn off the cabin heat system. Next, if possible, ventilate the cockpit. Finally, you need to make a decision about continuing your flight. In most cases, the prudent thing to do is to abort the flight and find the nearest airport at which to land, but the decision rests with you, the pilot.