Aircraft Seats Photo: Getty Images

Effective cleaning tools, methods stave off pandemic on aircraft ─Study

*Airplane manufacturer Boeing says silver lining could go a long way in giving consumers the confidence to take back to the skies, and set some of their clouded fears about the health safety of an airplane aside

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

A fresh study from leading aircraft manufacturer Boeing and the University of Arizona, in the US indicates that cleaning tools and techniques effectively destroy the virus that causes COVID-19 infection.

The significance of that silver lining could go a long way in giving travellers the confidence to take back to the skies, and set some of their clouded fears about the health safety of an airplane aside, Bloomberg report said.

It was gathered that as part of its Confident Travel Initiative (CTI) ─ an effort to support air travellers and enhance the safety and well-being of passengers and crews during the COVID-19 pandemic ─ the tests were performed on a real but unoccupied Boeing airplane against a live virus called MS2.

The University of Arizona’s Department of Environmental Sciences then compared those results to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

With a forecasted spike in coronavirus cases and cold weather, an environment COVID spreads easily in, upon many of us, the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is getting renewed interest.

But why MS2 and not the actual COVID virus? Report says using MS2 instead of an actual COVID-19 virus might be a head-scratcher to the non-scientists among them, but according to the scientists involved in the study, MS2 served two purposes.

First, it is safe and harmless to humans. Second, it’s more difficult to kill than SARS-CoV-2.

Scientific and industry studies have used the MS2 virus for years, but until now, never in an airplane cabin.

Mike Delaney, who leads Boeing’s CTI efforts, said: “While these cleaning solutions had been tested in other environments, an airplane behaves differently.

“It was critical for us to evaluate and confirm the chemicals and techniques we recommend for our customers’ use are effective and battle-tested.

“By working with the University of Arizona, we were able to employ their world-renowned expertise in virology to do exactly that.”

Researchers say the study involved testing everything from overhead bins to arm rests.

The MS2 virus was strategically placed on high-touch points throughout the aircraft’s cabin in areas that fliers are most likely to come in contact with, including seat tray tables, arm rests, seat cushions, the bathroom, overhead bins, and the galley.

Technicians then disinfected each area with various products and technologies in two separate ways ─ manual wiping and also with an electrostatic sprayer like that of the United Airlines.

The tests also measured how well Boeing’s own ultraviolet wand and antimicrobial coatings worked.

Antimicrobials are long-lasting coatings that destroy germs and viruses on surfaces and American Airlines was given the OK to use that method by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) earlier this year.

After Boeing did its part, the University of Arizona then performed a post-infection analysis on each high-touch area to determine effectiveness.

The final results were a mix of various levels of effectiveness, but Boeing claims that “ultimately all the recommended products, methods and technologies successfully destroyed the MS2 virus.”

While the first test showed impressive results, it’s not going to stop there, said Boeing.

The company, in a statement, said that it would continue to work with the University of Arizona to test recommended cleaning methods against SARS-CoV-2, and other similar viruses so they could further validate their effectiveness.

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