MIAMI – Korean Air (KE) is taking a serious look at the health risk that cosmic radiation represents for crew flying at high altitudes along polar or semi-polar routes.

After the first case of a pilot that obtained recognition of leukemia as being an occupational disease, originating from long periods of time spent flying at high altitudes and longitudes, KE is taking steps to control the amount of cosmic radiation absorbed by crew members flying on long-haul routes.


Crew Rostering According to Exposure

After meeting unions on the matter, KE indicated that crew would be dispatched taking into account the accumulated cosmic radiations absorbed considering that a crew member flying on long-haul at high latitudes, like a polar route, is exposed to approximately 6 millisieverts (mSv) of radiation per year.

KE has devised a program that automatically calculates the amount of exposure of flight crews and manages flight rosters in a manner to reduce it. Crew reaching 6mSv/year would fly only on shorter routes


Cosmic Radiation Origins

Cosmic radiation is a natural form of exposure, encountered by all living beings, and on an everyday basis, generated in the distant universe by supernovas or, nearer to us, by the sun and partially blocked by the earth’s magnetic field and atmosphere. The amount of radiation varies according to the solar activity, altitude, and longitude of flight.

Other factors include the length of time spent at high altitudes with the least exposure at the equator and the strongest at the poles. As a general assumption, the absorption of cosmic radiation varies from 0.001 to 0.003 mSv (millisievert) for short-haul and 0.004 to 0.005 mSv for long-haul flights.

Cosmic Radiation Exposure on North Pole Route

RouteAverage (mSv)Maximum (mSv)Minimum (mSv)
New York →to Seoul0.07930.1030.059
Chicago →to Seoul0.06610.07940.057
Atlanta →to Seoul0.07390.08560.0603
Washington →to Seoul0.07310.08690.0589
Toronto →to Seoul0.07030.08110.0594
Source: Korean Air

More information on cosmic radiations here.

Article sourced from Korean Air and The Korea Times

Featured image: Korean Air Airbus 380 HL7628. Photo: Luca Flores/Airways