Airbus exec: Airlines’ safety features minimize risk of virus transmission

Stanley

Passengers of many major air carriers are safe from the threat of coronavirus infections because of several layers of protections built into the aircraft, considered as “industry standards” over the years.

This was explained by Anand Stanley, newly appointed president of Airbus Asia-Pacific during a virtual press briefing on Wednesday.

Stanley said passengers must trust the safety features of modern airliners so that air travel would soon resume.

One of this factors is “cabin air quality,” Stanley said, adding that cabin air quality in one of the key elements that the aviation industry has maintained to keep trust passenger’s in air travel.

He said maintaining air quality is an industry effort by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), airport and airline regulators and other agencies “all working together.”

Stanley said all of these agencies have contributed tremendous amounts of efforts “to manage airflow, including social distancing and the wearing of the appropriate medical mask among others.”

“Aircraft cabin provides very, very low risk for the transmission of virus,” Stanley assured, adding that there are “built-in advance air filtration system that manage airflow pattern.”

He said one of these is the renewal of air cabin every two to three minutes.

“You will not find this level of air safety in any other mode of transport,” Stanley said, adding that the air inside airplane cabins is “similar to the operating theaters in hospitals.”

To clarify, Stanley explains that cabin air flow is recycled and drawn from the air outside of the airplane. Although he did not mention it, outside air temperature of most airplane’s cruising altitude is minus 30 to 50 degrees Celsius, and the air is practically free from any pollution.

“Fresh air is continuously introduced during the flight. A plane’s jets are sucking in and compressing huge volumes of air to burn with the aviation fuel, and  the excess cabin air is vented through valves to the rear of the plane to keep the cabin pressure constant,” said BBC Science Focus.

Stanley said this fresh air is forced down from the top cabin towards the bottom at very high speed, “at 1 meter per second velocity.” He explained that this air is sucked out from the floor of the airplane and expelled outside.

The vertical velocity of this downward air is so fast that there is not enough “transversal motion” to transmit the virus. “This transversal flow or row-to-row motion is completely avoided because of the downward flow.”

The other way of cleaning air inside airplane cabins is with the help of “high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters.

“HEPA filters remove 99 percent of the particles from cabin air,” Stanley said, adding the filters are fine enough to catch the coronavirus, “which is a large virus.”

The website said “air purifiers with HEPA filtration efficiently capture particles the size of [and far smaller than] the virus that causes Covid-19.”

“The CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] believes the virus is mainly transmitted by person-to-person contact, but there is growing evidence that it may also be transmitted through the air. If that is confirmed to be the case, HEPA filters will capture airborne coronaviruses,” according to its web site.

“The virus that causes Covid-19 is approximately 0.125 micron [125 nanometers] in diameter. It falls squarely within the particle-size range that HEPA filters capture with extraordinary efficiency: 0.01 micron [10 nanometers] and above.”

The Airbus executive said airline companies are trying to point out the efficiency of cleaning cabin air to instill confidence among travelers.

“The airlines industry will recover when we see the recovery of passenger traffic,” Stanley assured, adding that if the industry is able to communicate the safety inside airplane cabins, “then air travelers would be convinced to shed their inhibitions and take to the sky once more in this challenging times.”

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