Taking care in the air: jet air travel and passenger health, a study of British Overseas Airways Corporation (1940-1974)

This paper explores an aspect of medical history that has been overlooked in existing academic studies of commercial air travel, and advances a new historiography of airline passenger health and commercial aviation medicine. The introduction of jet-powered passenger aircraft by British Overseas Airw...

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Bibliographic Details
Main Authors: Lucy Budd, Morag Bell, Adam Warren
Format: Default Article
Published: 2012
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Online Access:https://hdl.handle.net/2134/9882
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Summary:This paper explores an aspect of medical history that has been overlooked in existing academic studies of commercial air travel, and advances a new historiography of airline passenger health and commercial aviation medicine. The introduction of jet-powered passenger aircraft by British Overseas Airways Corporation (B.O.A.C.) in 1952 presented a new set of epidemiological, chronobiological, and physiological passenger health concerns. These resulted from the increased size, speed, range, and cruising altitude of commercial jet aircraft. Drawing on extensive archival research, this paper explores the nature of these ‘new’ aeromedical challenges. It places them within the context of much earlier concerns about healthy travel, including military interest in the influence of flight on the human body. Focusing on B.O.A.C., the paper examines the ways in which one major airline responded to the passenger health challenges jet air travel posed, and assesses the extent to which B.O.A.C.’s responses transformed practices of aviation medicine.