1. JadeX
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    JadeX Active Member

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    Airplanes + radiation

    Discussion in 'Research' started by JadeX, Jul 28, 2015.

    In my book, approximately fifty years have passed since World War 3. My characters will find an abandoned military airfield, filled with a bunch of aircraft, built circa 1940 - 1960. Obviously, having been abandoned and basking in radioactive fallout for half a century, none of the planes are operable in their discovered condition.

    Could these planes be repaired and made airworthy again? What kind of effort would it take to do so? Would it be a monumental task requiring lots of manpower and resources, or could a moderate-sized crew of engineers do it on their own? How much of the original aircraft could be retained, and what parts might definitely not be usable and need to be replaced?

    What conditions might be favourable to the preservation of the aircraft? If the airfield were surrounded by mountains and hills, could that help keep away some of the radiation that could damage the planes? Would planes stored in hangars all that time be in better condition than ones that were left more exposed? Are there certain types of planes, perhaps ones built by certain manufacturers, that might stand a better chance of surviving?
     
  2. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    I am not sure on the half-life figures, but I do remember reading somewhere that metal shelled vehicles -- in the instance I read it was cars, but the same would apply for an aircraft -- the metal shell acts as a collector and concentrates the radiation inwards.

    People inside the vehicle cop pretty intense radiation effects due to this.

    50 years may be enough time for the radiation to have dissipated, I am not sure, but if you're going hard science it may be something to check out.

    In this instance, I am guessing:
    * being stored in hangars would help.
    * being in a valley surrounded by mountains may help by keeping the radiation and radioactive air-borne bits and pieces away from the airfield / aircraft

    HTH
     
  3. SwampDog
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    SwampDog Contributing Member

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    For the oldest aircraft, you're talking 75 years, plus whenever WW3 occurred. In any event, a long time in a/c terms.

    Those stored in hangars will likely have faired better, but there will stilll be major problems. Some of the a/c will have riveted aluminium airframes, and some will be rag over timber airframes e.g. the Hurricane.

    Your major problems, particularly if left outside, will be aluminium corrosion, perishing of probably all rubber parts and natural materials. Couple that with vermin damage, blockage of pitot tubes, fuel evaporation, shot tyres, contaminated oils et. al., rusted and seized flight controls, severe electrical system corrosion, and you'll need a team of engineers with tons of kit to get stuff flying again. Monumental enterprise.

    Many spares may be available in workshops, but will they have spare wings, for example? Are they going to start countless thousands of tiny holes in acres of sheet aluminium, relaying layer upon layer to build up wing spars and control surfaces?

    Best bet would be a bit of serendipity and cannibalising parts from several to make one or two.

    Consider what you would like investigating and repairing before you flew in one...
     
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  4. JadeX
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    JadeX Active Member

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    I didn't know that (about metal shells concentrating radiation inward), but it makes sense. The effect would probably be amplified in the case of aircraft, as they feature a more cylindrical construction than cars. That being said, even in the very slim chance they could get the craft flying again, it may require the pilots to sacrifice themselves to potential radiation poisoning.

    Wow, what an incredibly detailed response! Thank you, SwampDog, this is exactly the kind of in-depth detail and insight I was hoping for! Sadly, it doesn't appear to be too optimistic for my characters, but I think it's better I find that out now rather than write it as a major plot point and have someone call BS on it. Thank you very, very, very much. Your reply is a great help and does a good job illustrating what I wanted to know. Oh, did I say "thank you" yet? c:
     
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  5. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Maybe I'm missing something here, it wouldn't surprise me but, this makes no sense:
    Radiation doesn't accumulate and stick around inside an aircraft.

    Weathering of a plane a century give or take old would be more to do with the Sun and oxygen than radiation unless you are referring to the directly damaging effects of the Sun.

    And as for concentrating, I'll have to look that up. Passengers on planes are exposed to more radiation based on elevation, not because they are inside a plane. If there's an additional effect it would be incredibly minor.
     
  6. JadeX
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    JadeX Active Member

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    Yeah, we're not talking about your everyday solar radiation that we're all exposed to. Rather, we're talking about the long-term ionising radiation produced by the use of nuclear weapons, which lingers in the atmosphere and is distributed in the form of nuclear fallout. That's a lot more intense and damaging, as it is known to degrade metal and synthetic materials. The comparison between the former and the latter is like a minor sunburn versus being roasted in an oven.
     
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  7. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    Is that the fabled "Short first, ask questions later" posting style?

    Sure looks it!!
     
  8. AspiringNovelist
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    AspiringNovelist Contributing Member

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    I think radiation is the least of concerns (with respect to mechanical and electronic systems). That amount of exposure to the elements would render the aircrafts' metal frames to an extreme weakened state and the electronics would be beyond repair if not completely gone.

    In my limited knowledge of engines -- you'll need diesel engines, as they can be 're-worked' to fire and operate without electronics.
     

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