Pilots and passengers exposed to solar radiation due to poor space weather – NASA

Published on : Monday, October 28, 2013

airplane_xlargeThe degrading space weather is increasing the exposure of airline pilots and frequent flyers to the harmful solar radiation, as much as a nuclear plant employee, according to the reports revealed by NASA officials.




The US space agency said that the pilots are classified as “occupational radiation workers” by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as they fly at altitudes which hardly have the cover of atmosphere to protect them from cosmic rays and solar radiation.



A general pilot who flies from Chicago to Beijing is said to get exposed to radiation as much as a chest X-ray medical drill. The continuous exposure to the solar radiation can affect the eyes causing cataract and even cause cancer, according to NASA reports and medical advises.



Flying on an airplane can increase the amount of radiation exposure 10-fold or more, NASA said. The exact amount of exposure depends on multiple factors, including the altitude of the plane, the latitude of the flight plan (polar routes expose passengers to more radiation), to solar activity and sunspot count, they added.



To reduce the fuel expenditure, the long haul flights have taken the polar routes and this has increased the chances of solar radiation exposure. The passengers and flight personnel have a very little to cover themselves from these cosmic rays of the sun. NASA reports a savings of almost 40,000 USD in flight fuel costs as the airline companies take the shorter polar routes reaching more long haul destinations.



“To help airline companies safeguard passengers and personnel, NASA is developing an experimental tool to predict exposures in real time,” the space agency said. The project, which is being headed up by Mertens, has been dubbed NAIRAS or “Nowcast of Atmosphere Ionizing Radiation for Aviation Safety.” The project is still in its initial phase, and thus the aviation industry waits as NASA is expected to undo the harms of solar radiation and make flying a safer affair!

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