29 March 2012

Is Something Else Going On?

7 Nisan 5772

Is it just more in the news or is it because there's been a rash of events lately or is there something else going on?

6 memorable flight freak-outs

As scary as air travel may already be to some people, recent incidents have shown that turbulent behaviour from flight passengers — even cabin crew — can be an unforeseen cause of anxiety.

Take this week's mid-air incident involving JetBlue captain Clayton Osbon, who had to be forcibly restrained by passengers after reportedly running down the aisle and screaming incoherently about terrorists. Fortunately, a co-pilot had the presence of mind to take over controls in the cockpit and with the help of a pilot who happened to be on the flight, managed to land the commercial jet safely in Texas.

But the Osbon incident was far from an isolated one in the airline industry. Below are ... other recent examples of disruptive on-board meltdowns:

1. American Airlines flight attendant's 'crash' rants

A female American Airlines flight attendant was removed from a plane earlier this month after ranting about a possible crash over the public address system.

The unidentified flight attendant babbled over the system about technical problems with the plane, saying, "Captain, I can't be responsible for crashing this plane."

The incident at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport led the pilot to taxi back to the gate, where the flight attendant received a psychiatric evaluation.

...A pair of drunken executives with Ontario's Research in Motion, makers of the BlackBerry, reportedly caused chaos on board an Air Canada flight to Toronto from Beijing in December.

According to court documents, flight attendants said their antics included assaulting cabin crew and threatening fellow passengers. At one point, one man laid belly-down in the aisle and began kicking the floor, a crew member said.

Crew members handcuffed both men with plastic restraints and tape, which the pair "chewed their way through," according to court documents.

...Steven Slater became a folk hero to some for the attention-grabbing way he quit his job as a JetBlue flight attendant.

Slater's flight had just landed at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport when he got into an altercation with a female passenger who stood before the plane came to a halt. He used the loudspeaker to curse at the passengers, grabbed a beer and slid down the plane's emergency chute.

Slater pleaded guilty to attempted criminal mischief for the 2010 incident. He was ordered to undergo a year of counselling and treatment for substance abuse. He'd worked in the airline industry for about 20 years.

...In 2008, shocked passengers aboard an Air Canada flight bound for London from Toronto watched in horror as crew members forcibly removed, then restrained and sedated a co-pilot who had become belligerent.

The 58-year-old co-pilot had apparently suffered a nervous breakdown. A flight attendant with a flight licence took over some cockpit duties and helped to make an emergency landing in Ireland, where the co-pilot was taken for psychiatric care.

US Airways passenger who attacked crew says she 'panicked'

Illinois man gets 10 months in prison for trying to open jet door mid-flight

With all the attention given recently to increased solar activity and given that airline crew and passengers in flight are closer to the source, I looked into the effects of solar activity on human behavior and found the following:

Solar Storm Threat Analysis
There exist 50 years of scientific research linking health effects and disorders to solar storms. The threat appears to be associated with the downward vertical component of the interplanetary magnetic field. This is commonly referred to as Bz. The health effects include increased myocardial infarctions (heart attacks), increased cerebral vascular accidents (strokes), increased workplace and traffic accidents and adverse effects on human judgment and behavior.

Geomagnetic storms appear to affect human behavior, judgments and decisions about risk. Research has documented links to depression, enhanced anxiety, sleep disturbances, altered moods mainly affecting abstract judgment especially judgment of risk, overly cautious behavior, and greater incidences of psychiatric admissions. A study by Kay found a 36.2% increase in male hospital admissions diagnosed with the depressed phase of manic depressive illness correlated with the second week following geomagnetic storms compared to quiet periods. A study by Novikova and Ryvkin found geomagnetic storm correlates to psychotic outbursts in patients in a Moscow mental institution and to reports of hallucinations. Other studies showed that pilots experienced high levels of anxiety and decreased functional activity of the central nervous system resulting in a sharp decline of flying skills during geomagnetic storms. A study by Kuleshova et al. showed the daily number of hospitalizations of patients with mental disorders during geomagnetic storms nearly doubled when compared to quiet period.

Obviously some people are more affected than others which just says that some are more sensitive than others, whether due to some innate sensitivity or due to external factors which confer temporarily increased sensitivity. Either way, as this super-sun cycle continues to increase - look out!