Following testing, the American plane manufacturer and a group of researchers from the University of Arizona found that thermal disinfection of hard-to-clean flight deck equipment could effectively kill the SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes the COVID-19 infection.
To find out if thermal disinfection could be used as a tool to ensure flight crew health safety in the flight deck, the researchers applied different temperatures of heat on various flight deck surfaces and the virus.
The testing showed that after three hours of up to 50-degree Celsius (120 degrees Fahrenheit) heat, the SARS-CoV-2 virus is eliminated by more than 99,9%. In addition, the virus can be destroyed at a bit lower temperature, reaching 40-degree Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit), with the same effectiveness.
“We’re basically cooking the virus. […] Thermal disinfection is one of the oldest ways to kill disease-causing micro-organisms. It’s used by microbiologists in our laboratory every day,” commented Dr. Charles Gerba, the microbiologist and infectious disease expert at the University of Arizona.
As the flight deck is one of the most challenging areas in the aircraft to sanitize using traditional chemical disinfectants, Michael Delaney, the Leader of Confident Travel Initiative at Boeing, considered that the thermal disinfection could be the effective solution for airlines to fight the COVID-19 without causing damage to any sensitive and difficult-to-reach components in the cockpit area.
“In areas with sensitive electronic equipment, heat has the ability to disinfect without adverse effects from cleaners,” read in the Boeing statement released on December 15, 2020.
According to Boeing, the flight deck is designed to withstand temperatures up to 160 degrees Fahrenheit (70 degrees Celsius), this way making the thermal disinfection a safe, practical, and effective sanitization method against the COVID-19.