Re: QF Flight Engineers Dying?

Date:         06 Jan 2000 01:26:25 
From:         james matthew weber <>
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Russell Short wrote:
> Erika <> wrote ...
> >> It has arisen that 13 flight engineers flying for QF have died in the last
> >> six years of brain tumours. Another unspecified amount have had cancerous
> >> tumours removed by the various medical means available.
> >>
> >> According to a QF Senior Technical Specialist in avionics, fears have been
> >> around for years regarding electric and magnetic fields around the FE panel
> >> in the 747 Classic (and indeed other 3-crew aircraft).
> >
> >IY may be so ,but i know a QF engineer who is on the net all the time hes
> >home here in Sydney...wants more electronic punishment,eh.
> Seriously, having now spoken to the wife of a dead QF flight engineer, I am
> more surprised that more hasn't been done to shield these people from
> electromagnetic radiation. The poor woman is convinced that her husband was
> a slow victim of radiation in the cockpit. Of the 13 flight engineers that
> died at QF over a period of six years (one had been retired for six months,
> another for a year), ALL had tumours develop in the front lobes of their
> brain, suggesting that the electromagnetic radiation came from directly in
> front and/or above*.
> *Note: secondary information gathered from the wife.
> I know where *not* to carry my mobile phone....

Radiation a distinct possibility, but generated by the aircraft, I think

If you understood a little about electric and magnetic field theory, you
would understand that much of what you have said borders on absurd. At
400hz, the human body is probably  more transparent to electric fields
and magnetic fields than glass is to light.. That says that such fields
would penetrate the body from one end to the other, so if the cause was
in fact the 400hz fields produced by aircraft systems, I would expect
them to turn up in everyone who works in the cockpit, and be uniformly
distributed through the body. Even in a good conductor, the skin depth
at 400hz is in meters, so Electric and magnetic field shielding for
400hz on an aircraft is  not a practical option.

You don't route vast amounts of power through the cockpit either. HIgh
power devices are controlled by contactors (relays), the high power
wiring  and high power devices are not  in the cockpit, the controls for
it are. Translation: No good source for large fields in the cockpit

Until or unless you are prepared to have an epidemiologist, who is
experienced in identifying  risk factors, looking at these cases, this
is  speculation that may have very little basis in fact.

Did the Flight Engineers smoke?  Did they consume alcohol?  Any of them
ever use Benzene,  TCE or similar as a solvent or cleaner? Has anyone
calculated the lifetime radiation exposure (which is a well known
carcinogen) as a result of  jet travel (and potential increased risk)?
There are are well established risk factors.

Did you know that the exposure the cockpit crew gets in Concorde on an
hourly basis (it often  exceeds 2 mrem per hour) often  exceeds what a
nuclear generating plant worker is permitted on an hourly basis!). A
study done for the FAA concluded  that on average, aircrew get more
occupational radiation exposure than nuclear power plant workers! The
higher you fly the worse it gets. A trip from Los Angeles to Sydney on
a 747 is roughly equivalent to 2 chest X-rays. A career  of flying at
1000 hours per year produces a sizable   ionizing radiation exposure..

There is no shortage of  potential causes that have well established
links to cancer, so why insist that there is a link to a source whose
relationship with cancer is notable for its absence?

Until or unless the facts are investigated by a competent
epidemiologist,  these claims are highly speculative, and as I have just
pointed out, operating an aircraft at 39,000 feet for a living carries
a significant occupational Ionizing Radiation exposure, which is well
established and well understood carcinogen.  (British Airways actually
limits Concorde flight crew to 500 hours per year as a result, and
Concorde is actually equipped with a Radiation alarm.)

Were you aware that QANTAS pilots and first officers also  have
unusually high rates of skin cancer? I'll give you a hint. Pilots tend
to get it on the left arm, first officers tend to get it on the right
arm. Is it related the fields generated by the aircraft? Very unlikely,
the arms in question however regularly get a good healthy dose of
sunshine especially if they crew wears short sleeves. UV from the sun is
another well known and understood cause of skin cancers.

At this point we have almost 50 years experience with people living and
working in electric and magnetic fields far higher than mobile phones
(Police and Military walkie Talkies produce higher fields than mobile
phones, as do most radar's) and aircraft cockpits... These people have
not been dying left and right from brain tumors, and if there was a
substantial risk, I'd expect to have seen it by now.  The evidence that
non ionizing radiation, at levels that do not produce thermal effects,
cause cancer or tumors is notable for its absence! (The studies claiming
a link between high voltage transmission lines and cancer have been
thoroughly discredited).