Covid study: Risk of coronavirus exposure on commercial United aircraft ‘virtually non-existent’

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Risk of coronavirus exposure on commercial aircraft ‘virtually non-existent’ – even if they’re FULL – according to a Department of Defense study carried out on United planes

  • It’s claimed the study is the ‘most comprehensive on cabin airflow done to date’ 
  • Tests were conducted over 38 hours of flight time and 45 hours on the ground
  • Each test released the number of particles produced by a thousand coughs
  • Only 0.003 per cent of infected air particles could enter breathing zones 

A landmark study on the safety of commercial air travel by the Department of Defense has shown that the risk of Covid-19 exposure is ‘virtually non-existent’.

It’s claimed the study, through U.S Transportation Command (Transcom) using United aircraft, is the ‘most comprehensive on cabin airflow done to date’ and demonstrates that when a passenger is seated and wearing a mask, on average only 0.003 per cent of infected air particles could enter their breathing zone – even when every seat is occupied.

The six-month study found that fast onboard air recirculation, downward designed air ventilation and efficient hospital-grade Hepa filters make the cabin of a United airplane ‘one of the safest indoor environments in the world’.

A landmark study, pictured, on the safety of commercial air travel by the Department of Defense has shown that the risk of Covid-19 exposure is ‘virtually non-existent’

A landmark study, pictured, on the safety of commercial air travel by the Department of Defense has shown that the risk of Covid-19 exposure is ‘virtually non-existent’

A mannequin (called Ruth, pictured) equipped with an integrated aerosol generator was used to simulate breathing and coughing with a mask on and off

A mannequin (called Ruth, pictured) equipped with an integrated aerosol generator was used to simulate breathing and coughing with a mask on and off

A mannequin (called Ruth, pictured) equipped with an integrated aerosol generator was used to simulate breathing and coughing with a mask on and off

The research, which also involved the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa), was done by releasing particles across the entire cabin by section. 

Each section had 42 bio-defense sensors set up in every seat across multiple rows.

Sensors were also placed in the galleys and jetbridge during ground testing.

A mannequin (called Ruth) equipped with an integrated aerosol generator was used to simulate breathing and coughing with a mask on and off.

The sensors represented other passengers who could potentially come in contact with the particles emitted.

To make the situation even more realistic, thermal blankets were used to simulate bodily heat emission onboard.

Each test, said United, released 180million particles – equivalent to the number of particles that would be produced by a thousand coughs

During the test approximately 99.99 per cent of particles were filtered out of the cabin within six minutes

During the test approximately 99.99 per cent of particles were filtered out of the cabin within six minutes

During the test approximately 99.99 per cent of particles were filtered out of the cabin within six minutes

In total 300 tests were conducted over 38 hours of flight time and 45 hours of ground testing.

Each test, said United, released 180million particles – equivalent to the number of particles that would be produced by a thousand coughs. 

Approximately 99.99 per cent of particles were filtered out of the cabin within six minutes.

United’s Chief Customer Officer, Toby Enqvist, said: ‘Throughout the pandemic, our top priority has been the health and safety of our customers and crew. It’s why we supported the work of military officials, medical experts and aviation engineers that shows that the cabin of an aircraft is one of the safest environments in the world.

‘These results from the Department of Defense demonstrate that the steps we have taken at United, including maximizing air flow, running our air filtration system at all times, enforcing a mandatory mask policy and overhauling our cleaning procedures mean your chances of Covid exposure on a United aircraft are nearly non-existent, even if your flight is full.’ 



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