COVID and Innovation in Aviation
The aviation industry has been greatly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. As reported by Airlines for America, worldwide departures remain 49 percent below 2019 levels, with domestic USA flights averaging 58 passengers per departure compared to 99 in 2019.
As social distancing is difficult to nearly impossible on an aircraft, companies have been working on creating new products to sanitize and stop the virus before it can spread.
PWI, a Kansas-based aircraft repair company, has developed a device called Biotek Shield, which is installed in aircraft air conditioning systems and uses UVC (ultraviolet) light to neutralizes viruses, such as COVID-19, among others. The device is being designed to fit Boeing 737s before being fitted to other commercial aircraft.
“UVC light has long been proven to neutralize the coronavirus and stop it from infecting others,” reports PWI.
The Shield is currently undergoing testing by labs that are certified to test on live viruses, like COVID-19. It is expected the Shield will neutralize 99.9999% of virus cells, meaning the virus will no longer be able to replicate or infect humans.
“In order to get the world back to some sort of normalcy, the public needs to be safe travelling. We can now help stop the airborne spread of pathogens inside aircraft.” says Robi Lorik, President and CEO of PWI. “Since viruses are not alive, nothing will “kill” a virus. But a virus can be rendered incapable of reproducing or infecting a host.”
The Biotek Shield, as part of the aircraft’s air conditioning, continually operates which means the circulated air is always being cleaned, whether the aircraft is on the ground or in the air. The device operates silently and in the background, protecting passengers without them even knowing it’s running.
As added benefits, the device produces no waste and maintenance is only required every three to five years.
UVC is also being used by United Airlines to disinfect flight deck interiors at hub airports. United is using handheld, AUVCo blades from the American Ultraviolet company to kill any viruses.
“Flight decks have many working parts, screens and components that are challenging to clean with traditional hand wipes and liquids, especially for someone who isn't a pilot. The UVC lighting gives us a faster, more effective disinfection of one of the most important areas of the aircraft,” says Bryan Quigley, United's senior vice president of flight operations.
United has been using electrostatic spraying to disinfect aircraft cabins. This method is best used in areas with hard to reach surfaces.
United has been working in partnership with Cleveland Clinic to determine the best methods to protect both passengers and pilots.
"United implementing UVC lighting in its flight decks is an important tactic because we know that the virus can be killed by ultraviolet light," says Dr. James Merlino, Chief Clinical Transformation Officer at Cleveland Clinic. "It's one more measure that we can implement to ensure that we're doing all we can to keep passengers, flight attendants and crews safer."