Overview Of Aircraft Radiation Exposure And Recent Er-2 Measurements

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The intensity of the different particles making up atmospheric cosmic radiation, their energy distribution, and their potential biological effect on aircraft occupants vary with altitude, geomagnetic latitude, and time in the sun’s magnetic activity cycle. Dose rates from cosmic radiation at commercial aviation altitudes are such that crews working on present-day jet aircraft are an occupationally exposed group with a relatively high average effective dose. Crews of future high speed commercial aircraft flying at higher altitudes would be even more exposed. Present calculations of such exposures are uncertain because knowledge of important components of the radiation field comes primarily from theoretical predictions. To help reduce these uncertainties for high-altitude flight, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Department of Energy (DOE) started the Atmospheric Ionizing Radiation (AIR) project. The measurement part of the AIR project is an international collaboration of 12 laboratories placing 14 instruments on multiple flights of a NASA ER-2 aircraft. This paper describes the basic features of cosmic radiation in the atmosphere as they relate to exposure of aircraft occupants and then describes the AIR ER-2 measurements and presents some preliminary results from a series of flights in June 1997.

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