Steve and Dr. Cole discuss a recent Harvard University study that used computer models to review airflow in airliner cabins, and it says the specialized onboard ventilation systems filter out 99% of airborne viruses. It was funded by airlines, airplane manufacturers and airports, but the Harvard researchers insist this did not impact their findings.
Researchers at the university’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that even though air is recirculated back into the cabin, it goes through high-quality filters first. And virus droplets from one passenger are unlikely to infect another because of a “downward direction” of airflow, they said. “This ventilation effectively counters the proximity travelers are subject to during flights,” their report says.
The ventilation system, however, is not effective alone. Harvard’s researchers described masks as a critical part of keeping travelers healthy and credited the role of disinfection and passengers’ self-screening for Covid-19 symptoms.
The “layered approach, with ventilation gate-to-gate, reduces the risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission onboard aircraft below that of other routine activities during the pandemic, such as grocery shopping or eating out,” the study said.
The Harvard computer modeling was in line with another recent study by the Defense Department that used mannequins outfitted with surgical masks and particle detection equipment on Boeing 767 and 777 jets. It found little risk of transmission thanks to the masks and efficient air ventilation.