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13 November 2015

WiFi in the Sky - Convenient and In-demand - Is It Safe?

On Wi-Fi-enabled aircraft, what are the levels of microwave
radiation; do these impact pilot performance and human
health?  And are there security issues?
Following is an extract from the document, "Wi-Fi in the Sky".  Click here for the full document.

Wi-Fi in the Sky

WiFi in the Sky - Convenient and In-demand - Is It Safe? Includes Sample Inflight Symptom SurveyRadio-frequency (RF)/Wireless Microwave Radiation Exposure from Inflight Mobile Devices and WiFi Connectivity

Is this technology a new security, safety or health risk? Who is monitoring this for potential adverse effects: pilots or passengers fainting, or suffering cardiac arrest mid-flight?

What are the insurance, liability and regulatory implications?

This Statement of Concern from pilots and medical, scientific, risk management and technical experts was submitted by Kerry Crofton, "As a consultant, I worked for many years with pilots and air traffic controllers in Canada and the US. They are highly skilled professionals. The safety and wellbeing of their crew and passengers are paramount for pilots and flight attendants. No question. We urge you to hear our concerns about this potential new risk factor and call for a review and monitoring." . . . .

1. OVERVIEW: February 2013. Alaska Airlines reports a pilot lost consciousness while flying a Boeing 737-700. While the aircraft was at cruising altitude, the pilot – with 28 years of experience – stood up, became dizzy, lost consciousness and fell to the floor. There had been a similar fainting episode on January 22, also on an Alaska Airlines WiFi-enabled aircraft. In that case, the copilot briefly lost consciousness in flight. As potential adverse effects from RF exposure can include nausea, vertigo and fainting, could this have been one of the contributing factors? If ill health were the major cause, could the onboard RF radiation have exacerbated the effects? No one considered this possibility in the investigation, as far as we know.

Insomnia, emotional stress and depression can be related. There is evidence that RF radiation could also result in a sudden neurological event that could compromise brain function, impair cognitive abilities, or trigger life-threatening cardiac symptoms, even in an otherwise healthy individual with no previous related history. Occupational exposure for pilots is increasing because of enhanced security screening, the proliferation of WiFi in hotel rooms, vehicles and airports, and the extensive use of increasingly powerful mobile phones and WiFi devices.

In 2015 there are more reports of passengers feeling faint and losing consciousness on Alaska Airlines flights, including one from DC to Seattle, "There were 5 people down, requiring oxygen. One fainted in the aisle. All were heart and BP related. I am very concerned that this could be from the inflight WiFi, as I feel it as well. There were no indications of toxic fumes or other apparent causes." Then a SkyWest/United flight where a nurse began feeling unwell when she went to assist passengers in medical distress. Were they sitting near an access point? Was this factor part of the investigation check list? We request that this aviation inflight entertainment product be re-evaluated including a risk assessment of what could happen in a worst-case scenario – cognitive impairment and/or cardiac dysfunction of the pilot, or loss of consciousness in cruise flight, for example. In accident investigations, we suggest, RF exposure should be routinely evaluated as a potential contributing factor, especially when there is not another clear cause.

On October 5, 2015 an American Airlines pilot became incapacitated mid-flight and died. His widow reports he had by-pass surgery in 2006. The next day a United co-pilot passed out, lost consciousness, mid-flight. Was the WiFi in the cockpit a factor? Is anyone investigating this aspect? Before this technology was implemented did anyone test for cardiac or neurological symptoms? We ask for a review of pre-implementation testing reports investigating potential effects on human health and performance, and the inflight RF levels on WiFi-enabled aircraft.

We do not have all the facts of these incidents but with up-to-date testing reports on navigational equipment and pilot performance, access for technical experts to measure inflight EMR/RF levels, we could recommend policies and procedures to reduce potential risks and suggest safer ways to use this technology. The installation of this new technology should be properly tested and monitored as:

•There is no conclusive evidence that exposure from mobile phone radiation and inflight WiFi is without risk from health and/or aviation safety and security perspectives.

•There is evidence that even low levels of radio-frequency radiation can be harmful to human health and adversely effect human cognition and performance – even at governmentsanctioned levels, as reported in the BioInitiative Report on Government Standards and in the Seletun Scientific Statement.

•There is no evidence, which we know of, that the accumulated exposures in a WiFi-enabled aircraft, with or without crew and passengers online, have been measured or monitored.

•There is scientific evidence of harm and many experts are calling for caution.

Dietrich Klinghardt, MD, PhD: "As a physician I have seen enough medical and scientific evidence to know that the radiation used in WiFi and mobile communications is hazardous to human health, and share the concerns of many other researchers about the risks of WiFi in aircraft. This could have short and long term consequences. Few aviation experts are aware of the potential dangers to the brain, and both emotional and mental functioning of the pilot's brain during flight, at existing safety standard levels."

Physician Hans-Christoph Scheiner, MD: "With RF radiation exposure, potential symptoms include: Insomnia, Vertigo, loss of consciousness."

Scientist Professor Mosgoeller, PhD, University of Vienna: "With this type of radiation exposure, our research shows cognitive impairment - wrong responses were given within shorter time periods.”

Cardiologist Stephen Sinatra, MD: "Increased risk of cardiac symptoms including: arrhythmia, tachycardia, myocardial infarction (heart attack), TIA, and stroke."

IT expert, Frank Clegg: "There is no proof that this technology is safe. " 5

Technical Expert Katharina Gustavs: “Since an aircraft is a metal enclosure, any wireless transmitter, as well as WiFi access points operating on the inside, will cause an exponential increase in RF radiation exposure. Due to reflection and resonance effects and multiple users, exposure levels can increase 1000% in hot spots, which may exceed official exposure limits.”

Alasdair Philips, UK Electrical Engineer: "We are told that the radiation levels are 'well within government health and safety limits'. These standards, however, are not accurate. And at the levels of exposure measured in a WiFi-enabled aircraft, headaches, fatigue, muddled thinking, confusion, irritability, generally increased stress, and in principle also cardiac symptoms - yes, all seem possible, and likely, in some passengers and flight crew.” [Appendix C - full letter and comments from other technical experts]

Another issue is that few flight surgeons and aviation medical examiners are up to date with this research and the potential adverse effects, and most don't know how to diagnose or treat the emerging medical condition electro-hypersensitivity (EHS). The above are documented concerns before 2015. NOTE: there are many indications that worldwide exposure is intensifying – in the skies, and above.

Full document:

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