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Switzerland

Is Your Airplane Carrying Radioactive Cargo?

"Ladies and gentlemen, we are sorry to inform you that we cannot proceed to takeoff because we are still waiting to receive papers for the radioactive cargo on board – please excuse the delay...."

What's in the cargo? (SWISS)
What's in the cargo? (SWISS)
Ruedi Baumann

GENEVA - If the captain of a recent SWISS International Air Lines flight departing from London hadn't been upfront about informing passengers on why their flight was delayed, they would have remained blissfully ignorant about the surprising cargo on board.

However, the captain of the Airbus A320 announced: "Ladies and gentlemen, we are sorry to inform you that we cannot proceed to takeoff because we are still waiting to receive papers for the radioactive cargo on board – please excuse the delay." Unperturbed, some passengers continued to leaf through their magazines, while others murmured questions about why a regular scheduled passenger flight would be carrying radioactive materials.

Fifteen minutes later, the captain's voice came over the loudspeaker again to announce that the papers still hadn't arrived due to a computer breakdown, and that SWISS was doing its utmost to expedite matters. According to the account of one passenger on the flight, most passengers were still not alarmed, although there was a lot of whispering.

An hour later the captain announced that since the papers had still not arrived, the cargo was being unloaded, and thanks to tail winds part of the lost time would be made up.

SWISS spokeswoman Sonja Ptassek confirmed the incident, stating that it was common practice for small amounts of radioactive substances -destined for medical use- to be flown by regular scheduled airlines. To be able to fly, the substances must be specially packed, so as not present a risk in the event of an emergency landing. SWISS did its best to brief passengers honestly, although the airline did aknowledge that in the specific instance the information could have caused consternation for some passengers.

Radioactive materials are used by hospitals and universities, and urgent delivery is often required. Through injection of the substances into the bloodstream, nuclear medicine makes it possible to diagnose tumors, or dysfunction of the thyroid gland, heart or lungs.


Read the article in German in Tages Anzeiger.

Photo - SWISS

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