COVID-19 has changed how the entire world lives and does business. From temperature checks to mask requirements, social distancing to sanitizing every surface, there’s a new normal for how we go about our regular activities. And so, in general aviation we’re also adopting new protocols for cleanliness and installing state-of-the-art sanitizing technology in our planes and facilities. These new standards are essential to protect passengers and staff and will help operators return to previous activity levels as customers will come to expect enhanced measures to be in place.
You’ve heard of different disinfecting techniques and may have already begun to shop around for a system to use at your own operation. But with so many new products entering the market over the last few months, the options can be overwhelming. We’ve rounded up some of the top disinfecting technologies marketed for use in aviation, how they work, and their efficacy in killing pathogens. We should note that because COVID-19 is so new, most, if not all, of these methods have not been tested on this specific virus, but have been clinically proven to kill other contagious pathogens and coronaviruses.
UV / UVC LIGHT
Sometimes called “nature’s hand sanitizer,” Ultraviolet Light is scientifically proven to kill coronaviruses and frequently used in hospitals and other commercial spaces. An established technology, UV Lights are probably the most popular sterilization method in the market, but buyer beware, as they can come in varying strengths and sizes, and therefor with varying antimicrobial capabilities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “Guideline for Disinfection and Sterilization in Healthcare Facilities,” UV Light as a means of disinfection is most effective at a range of 240-280 nm. And while shown to kill viruses on hard surfaces, including floors, it can be less effective on clothing and other fabrics. A drawback of UVC disinfection is that it needs reapplication and only kills surfaces the light can reach. It can also be damaging to human skin and eyes, so needs to be applied with care, most likely by a professional.
BIPOLAR IONIZATION / BIONIC GENERATORS
Bipolar or bionic generators release charged atoms that cling to and kill virus molecules (as well as bacteria and other harmful substances). It’s been used in buildings in the US since the 1970s, integrating into a facility’s HVAC, taking oxygen molecules from the air, converting them, and then circulating through the space via the ventilation system. The ionization process is continuous as long as the ventilation system is running. The charged atoms can also cling to respiratory droplets, which makes these systems appealing in the fight against COVID-19 as we learn more about the virus and how it is spread. The technology has been embraced by hospitals, including Johns Hopkins, as well as international airports like New York LaGuardia (KLGA), Chicago O’Hare (KORD), and San Francisco (KSFO).
Bionic generators have also been adapted for aircraft ventilation systems. AVIAA preferred partner ACC Columbia Jet Service, based in Germany, offers one such system. An additional benefit to operators is that it requires no ongoing maintenance after installation.
ELECTROSTATIC CHEMICAL APPLICATION
Electrostatic cleaning also uses ionization technology to atomize cleaning solutions so that they cling to and coat surfaces and objects. There are many electrostatic cleaning services in the market, with most acting as a more effective application of disinfectants versus traditional methods like wiping down surfaces, so reapplication will be necessary. However, there are some products, like MicroShield 360, which also contains a barrier, preventing harmful bacteria and pathogens from living on surfaces for up to a year from application. MicroShield 360 is licensed for use in aircraft exclusively by AVIAA preferred partner Constant Aviation.
UVC Plasma technology essentially combines the UVC and ionization methods of cleaning. Air within a contained space is pulled into the system and exposed to UV Light, killing pathogens contained within, while simultaneously, oxygen molecules are converted to charged atoms and dispersed into the air to cling to and kill virus molecules. And once again, depending on the type of system and how it’s used, the process is continuous as long as air is being circulated.
UVC Plasma systems come in a range of sizes and types, from lightweight units weighing 1.75kg to full building systems, offering versatile solutions for aircraft operators and FBOs who need to disinfect offices, lounges, and aircraft. AVIAA preferred partner Inscentives-Europe recently outfitted Dutch charter operator Exxaero with Biozone AirCare systems in all of their aircraft.
With so many options, there’s a product that’s right for every operator and service provider. We do know that COVID-19 and other virus can be transferred via fomites (contaminated surfaces), but the latest research indicates that it is more commonly spread through respiratory droplets and possibly aerosols. Most experts recommend a multibarrier approach, not relying on one single method. Advanced sterilization products are fantastic tools, but should not replace other protocols such as hand-washing, wearing masks, and social distancing wherever possible.
While we’re all optimistic for a vaccine in the near future, we think that many of these new cleaning standards are here to stay. It’s an opportune time to invest in the health of your customers, your staff, and your business.
To learn more about disinfections systems available through AVIAA preferred partners, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.