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December 1, 1962

Supersonic Flight May Create Some New Medical Problems

JAMA. 1962;182(9):26. doi:10.1001/jama.1962.03050480090035

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If drawing board plans materialize, a vast segment of the general flying public will be breaking the sound barrier sometime in the 1970s "without any greater degree of medical concern than that existing in commerical aviation today," physicians attending at the clinical meeting were told.

Dr. Donald H. Stuhring, chief of aviation medicine for the Boeing Company in Seattle, said the first supersonic jets may cruise at altitudes approaching 75,000 feet and carry 150 passengers 3,500 miles at 3 times the speed of sound.

"Although no totally new medical problem areas are anticipated, the speeds and altitudes envisioned require a reevaluation of the inherent operational and environmental hazards with particular emphasis on potential effects on crew, passengers, and the public at large," he said.

Problems discussed by Stuhring included the effect on biological rhythms resulting from rapid time zone changes, safety measures for emergency cabin decompression, and radiation hazards.