As you navigate your online pilot training it is important to include sun safety practices in your flying routine.
We have all likely heard the warnings of the sun’s damage and how it leads to an increased risk for skin cancer — just 15 minutes of the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can be harmful. So, where does this leave pilots? Pilots spend an upwards of nine hours participating in on-duty flying in an exposed cockpit with windows spanning in almost every direction — an environment that draws in UV rays.
If the skies are calling you, CPAT has a myriad of online pilot training courses that include distance learning, interactive classrooms, and simulator integration. Start your journey with CPAT and learn about sun safety and sun protection as you spend more time in the skies.
The Dangers of UVA and UVB Rays
When you think of sun damage tanning beds, the beach, and being outdoors generally comes to mind, and you there is less thought of getting it from driving or flying. The cockpit windows and windshields in airplanes are typically composed of multilayer composite glass or polycarbonate plastic. Research has found that less than one percent of UVB are able to penetrate the windows and more than 50 percent of UVA rays can penetrate into the airplane.
What is the difference between UVA and UVB rays?
- UVA – We have a greater exposure to UVA rays over our lifetime because they are able to penetrate and reach the Earth’s atmosphere and account for 95 percent of the UV rays. These rays are present even on a cloudy day and can permeate glass. UVA rays are most known for their role in the development of skin cancer.
- UVB – These rays are known for causing the irritation and redness we get when we experience a sunburn and damages the epidermal skin layers. It also plays a role in skin cancer but differs from UVA rays in that it is strongest from 10 am to 4 pm through April and October and can reflect from water, snow, or ice affecting you twice as much. The good news for pilots, as we mentioned above, they are unable to penetrate glass.
The Importance of Sun Safety For Pilots
Because UVAs do not largely cause sunburn their effects are immediate and pilots are aware or even concerned of this slow sun damage that is occurring. To protect yourself from early sun damage and skin cancer in the cockpit, consider the following:
- Wear a broad spectrum sunscreen – Generally pilots wear long sleeves, and if this is the case, concentrate applying sunscreen on your face, neck, and hands. Look especially for UVA-blocking components such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.
- Use the sun shields that are available in the aircraft.
- Wear a hat that has a bill of at least three inches. This is also important for those who have thinning hair and risk sun exposure on their scalps.
- Wear sunglasses with UVA and UVB protection.
- Eat a diet rich in antioxidants (veggies and fruit) to help scavenge and eliminate cancer-causing free radicals.
Sun safety may not be the first thing you think of when you enter an airplane’s cockpit, but it is important to understand the risks of sun damage and skin cancer when you begin to spend more time up in altitude where the atmosphere in thinner and the sun’s rays are able to penetrate glass.