Overview of Atmospheric Ionizing Radiation (AIR) research: SST-present

J. W. Wilson*, P. Goldhagen, V. Rafnsson, J. M. Clem, G. De Angelis, W. Friedberg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Supersonic Transport (SST) program, proposed in 1961, first raised concern for the exposure of pregnant occupants by solar energetic particles (SEP), and neutrons were suspected to have a main role in particle propagation deep into the atmosphere. An eight-year flight program confirmed the role of SEP as a significant hazard and of the neutrons as contributing over half of the galactic cosmic ray exposures, with the largest contribution from neutrons above 10 MeV. The FAA Advisory Committee on the Radiobiological Aspects of the SST provided operational requirements. The more recent lowering of ICRP-recommended exposure limits (1990) with the classification of aircrew as "radiation workers" renewed interest in GCR background exposures at commercial flight altitudes and stimulated epidemiological studies in Europe, Japan, Canada and the USA. The proposed development of a High Speed Civil Transport (HSCT) required validation of the role of high-energy neutrons, and this resulted in ER-2 flights at solar minimum (June 1997) and studies on effects of aircraft materials on interior exposures. Recent evaluation of health outcomes of DOE nuclear workers resulted in legislation for health compensation in year 2000 and recent European aircrew epidemiological studies of health outcomes bring renewed interest in aircraft radiation exposures. As improved radiation models become available, it is imperative that a corresponding epidemiological program of US aircrew be implemented. Published by Elsevier Ltd on behalf of COSPAR.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-16
Number of pages14
JournalAdvances in Space Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2003


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