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July 27, 2000
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Thursday OSHtalk (July 27, 2000) As the sun went down behind the Twin Beech, OSHtalk's host Rick Durden had a chance to talk with two experienced mechanics, director of maintenance Bob Ahlf and production manager Dennis Wyman, both of G & N Aircraft, the noted engine overhauler and maintenance facility in Griffith, Indiana. Bob and Dennis discussed a wide range of subjects, including suggestions as to how pilots could more effectively communicate with mechanics, what is done when an engine has a prop strike, how to troubleshoot engine problems, and recognizing that the time between overhauls is determined by not just time in service but also calendar time on the engine. In the second segment of the program Bob and Dennis were joined by Brian Finnegan, president the Professional Aviation Maintenance Association (PAMA). All three painted a dismal picture of poor pay, poor working conditions, and the risks under the FARs for aviation mechanics. They pointed out that A&P mechanics are paid less than automotive mechanics, put their careers on the line every time they sign off an airplane for return to service, and face nearly constant pressure from pilots to cut corners to keep costs down. The discussion was as blunt as it gets. The industry has forecast a need for 12,000 new mechanics in 2001 versus the expectation that the schools will graduate only 4,000. Our guests made predictions of some interesting changes for the business in the near future. Overall, it means that those of us who fly are going to have to pay the maintenance professionals who keep our airplanes healthy. In the third segment, AVweb aeromedical guru Dr. Brent Blue talked about an area of significant concern to pilots, flight attendants and passengers who regularly fly at high altitudes: cosmic radiation exposure and the attendant cancer risk. (Also see Dr. Blue's article
"Radiation Exposure Aloft Are You Being Nuked?") The years 2000 and 2001 will be years of major solar activity, including flares and events that have already radically increased the level of radiation reaching the earth's atmosphere. The FAA has been curiously unwilling to take action to protect those who fly at high altitudes from the effects of radiation despite the fact that those persons face the same risks of health problems, including some nasty cancers, as do radiation workers. The minimum wage folks who scan your baggage at the airport wear radiation dosimeters but flight crew who face greater exposure do not. Dr. Blue also explained that pregnant women who fly at high altitude face significant risks of damage to their fetus. In the final OSHtalk segment, Dr. Blue chatted with host Rick Durden about a wide-ranging series of subjects of interest to pilots, including a Canadian proposal to let recreational pilots self-certify their medical condition; problems with the new internet procedure for Aviation Medical Examiners to report to the FAA the results of pilot medicals and the dramatic increase in backlog for the FAA to process medicals for pilots who do have some difficulties; an unfortunate revision to the Underwriter's Laboratories' specification for
electronic carbon monoxide detectors that reduce their safety value for pilots; and several other subjects concerning pilot health.
Listen to Thursday OSHtalk (running time 75 minutes).