Sun’s Aviation Safety Challenges Studied by EASA; FAA benefit from Köln Symposium

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ARTICLE: Preparing for the next solar storm


Good preparation by Eurocontrol on how to respond to the inevitable sunspot is presented in this internet post. While we all intuitively acknowledge the massive energy of the sun, the destructive power of that energy is documented by the European AT system’s inventory of solar surges’ impact here on Earth:

  • Satellites have been lost – in 1989 and 2003 – because of space weather.
  • Magnetic storms have affected electrical power grids.
  • Solar disruptions can interfere with radio, especially HF (high frequency).
  • Power failure and induced current in telecommunications grids could knock out internet access and telephones.
  • Solar storms can create unusually high levels of ionizing radiation – up to a hundred times higher than usual. This can affect flight crews and passengers, but radiation can also impact on electronics and aircraft avionics.

That’s a significant effect well beyond the prophylactic SPF 50 level!

The Eurocrats sponsored workshop (presentations found here) was held in Köln on 20 March 2013 at that beautiful city on the Rhine. As described by EASA’s release, representatives from airlines, air navigation service providers (ANSPs), Civil Aviation Authorities (CAAs), airports, military and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) were in the audience. Through bringing together speakers who were premier specialists in the field from airlines, pilots, ANSPs, research organizations etc. the workshop identified priorities, shared knowledge and encouraged cooperation and harmonization. Hopefully there will be enough time for the FAA and other ANSPs to digest and take action on the nine EASA papers:

1. What is space weather?
2. How does it impacts aviation?
3. What does space weather do to commercial operations?
4. A cockpit perspective
5. Operations research
6. ATM assessment
7. Navigation systems hit by space weather
8. Crisis management
9. Guidance for an international reaction

Useful research, thoughts and preparations by our European allies!

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