The latest AVweb contains a very disturbing article which, while aviation-related, has implications reaching far beyond our quirky corner of the world. Indeed, this thing comprises a serious erosion of basic constitutional rights that should concern every American whether they fly or not.
…the California Department of Health Services, Radiologic Health Branch, came to the warehouse expressing concern about radium-dial instruments on the premises. This set a process in motion that seems to have no end — even almost eight years later — and thus far has resulted in the destruction of over one million (yes, one million) irreplaceable historic aircraft instruments and related parts, only a tiny fraction of which had any radium. It has also resulted in the razing of one of two warehouses that housed the items since the 1950s. So far, the cost of the “cleanup” has exceeded $7 million and the bill is being presented to Jeff, personally, even though it was a lawfully incorporated company that owned the instruments. Under the law, he cannot even protect his house and family by declaring bankruptcy, so our government has inventoried his house and its contents for possible seizure and sale.
The article touched a nerve for three reasons. The first and most important of those is ennumerated above. The second reason is because this all took place at Chino Airport, a well-loved local haunt and home to numerous friends.
The third reason is a personal connection. One of my co-workers at Sunrise had their Stinson 108 restored recently, and much of the work was done at Chino. The project was held up for quite some time due to the fallout (no pun intended) from this radium instrument issue. As I recall, the 108 has instruments with the radium faceplates.
The ultimate irony here is that at Chino — and airports all over the country — pilots toss fuel samples on the ramp every day during preflight inspections. That fuel contains high concentrations of tetra-ethel lead, a carcinogen which is present in far greater quantities than any collection of aircraft parts, no matter how large.