While the coronavirus placed a heavy emphasis on innovating new social protocol for long-distance travelers, the pandemic also put airline companies and manufacturers under the microscope, highlighting an industry-wide responsibility to mitigate risk of COVID-19 infection now and in the future.
Boeing spokesperson, Peter Pedraza, said the company has always made cabin air quality “a top priority”.
From the vertical ceiling to the HEPA filters removing over 99.9 percent of viruses and bacteria from the air before it’s re-circulated, “our cabins have been designed to minimize contaminants from spreading for many years,” he said. “Boeing’s Confident Travel Initiative adds to this strategy by utilizing the company’s engineering experience to help our customers restore confidence with the flying public.”
“We are taking a systematic approach and using aerospace principles to put multiple, independent layers of protection into place,” Pedraza continued.
With updates provided daily, the World Health Organization shows nearly 30 million confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide with the death toll nearing the million mark at just over 900,000.
By partnering with airlines, regulators, and organizations around the world, Boeing’s travel initiative hopes to employ a multilayered approach to fight the virus and ensure travelers are aware of necessary precautions before boarding a properly disinfected commercial jet with quality airflow.
Additionally, the initiative includes the development of new technologies to further safeguard the aircraft and health of the passengers.
Right now, Pedraza said Boeing is looking at ultraviolet technology and how it might be used to disinfect the flight deck.
“We’re also looking at off the shelf anti-microbial coatings to serve as additional layers of protection to what’s already in place,” he said.
Air-carriers have also done their part, making sure passengers are properly masked and utilize effective social distancing strategies while boarding, being seated, and off-boarding the plane.
Southwest Airlines spokesperson, Chris Mainz, told Innovation & Tech Today the domestic provider is fully engaged with the industry advocacy organization, A4A, manufacturers, medical professionals, and suppliers to ensure a clean, safe, and comfortable travel experience for their customers.
“We support the well-being of our employees and customers, and we’ll continue to evaluate our policies and procedures as we learn more,” he said.
Other aircraft manufacturers like Airbus have not only installed new safety standards to protect passengers and crew during the pandemic, they’ve also become offensive, deploying aircraft to supply additional face masks to health systems in France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom.
Airbus engineers and technology teams were also mobilized for the Ventilator Challenge UK consortium to accelerate production of two existing medical ventilator designs using Airbus’ industrial skills and facilities.
Over the summer, the European aircraft manufacturer was forced to eliminate 15,000 positions from their global workforce due to the virus, including jobs in France, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom.
What about tomorrow’s pandemic?
While COVID-19 remains and health organizations grapple for solutions, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, World Health Organization Director-General, warned the media “This will not be the last pandemic.”
“History teaches us that outbreaks and pandemics are a fact of life. But when the next pandemic comes, the world must be ready – more ready than it was this time,” he said.
Following his lead, airlines and aircraft manufacturers are keeping one eye on the flight path ahead of them to ensure they can stop an outbreak before it begins.
“We are constantly looking at improving airplane design whether is related to safety, performance, or the economic efficiency of our products,” Pedraza said. “We’ve made a series of investments in new technologies that show promise, and we’ll continue examining new materials that are more easily cleaned and resistant to bacteria and viruses.”