How pilots deal with radiation and flights over the North Pole

Racing around the world at 43,000 feet, you may think that the biggest threat is hitting the ground below you. However, have you ever thought of what’s hitting the aircraft from above?

Cosmic radiation is all around us, but its effects are seen more at altitude, and particularly at the Poles, than on the ground. However, some of the most time and fuel-efficient flight routes take aircraft well into the Arctic Circle and close to the North Pole.

So how does this radiation affect us and how do pilots fly these remote routes?

Radiation exposure

Every time you get out of bed (and when you’re in it for that matter) your body is exposed to radiation. It’s all around us and is, for the most part, unavoidable. Some of this radiation is useful and other types are not so useful.

The effects of non-ionising radiation, such as ultraviolet light, radio waves and microwaves, very much depend on the intensity of the radiation received. It can damage the skin and eyes (hence why we wear sunglasses and sunscreen) and if it penetrates the body, can cause damage to organs by heating them.

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