How Has COVID-19 Pushed Aircraft Manufacturers to Develop Better Clean-Cabin Tech?

The coronavirus pandemic dealt a massive blow to the aviation industry. With various lockdown restrictions in effect, travel has been much harder. We have seen a steep drop in the number of passengers since the onset of the virus, and the industry has yet to recover.

The reason for the lack of passengers and flights, however, is not because air travel itself is unsafe. Research conducted by Boeing revealed that the cabin environment significantly reduces and removes cough particles in the air. According to Dan Freeman, Chief Director of Boeing Confident Travel Initiative, “We found people seated next to each other on an airplane are protected from aerosol cough particles in the same way as when standing more than 7 feet apart in a typical building environment.” Competing companies Airbus and Embraer conducted independent research and reached similar conclusions.

The results of the research were associated with a high air exchange rate in the cabin (cabin air is completely refreshed every 2-3 minutes, compared to 2-5 air exchanges per hour in a normal building setting), circular airflow from floor to ceiling, high-efficiency particulate air filters (trap more than 99.9% of particulates), and airplane seat configurations.

In addition to strict screening and preventive protocols in airports, all these contribute to the safety of air travel with regards to Covid-19. In fact, the International Airport Transport Association (IATA) reported that in more than 1.2 billion passengers that flew in 16 million flights, there are fewer than 50 passenger-to-passenger transmission onboard airplanes.

However, their research does not solve the problem. People are still afraid, and there are always risks of contracting the virus. To combat this, aircraft manufacturers are now racing to develop new technologies to achieve cleaner and safer cabins.

Touchless Technology

One of the main ideas that aircraft manufacturers are currently touching on is the use of touchless technology in different parts of the cabin. This will allow both passengers and flight crew to avoid unnecessary physical contact. High touch surfaces such as seats, tables, inflight entertainment systems, taps, and toilets in the lavatory are prone to contamination. Manufacturers are designing new systems to enable control of these areas using sensors and mobile phones. Physical redesigning of some areas is also under study, such as the use of feet to open bins and doors.

Plasma Ionization Systems

Gulfstream Aerospace is leading the development of plasma ionization systems that will make cabin air even cleaner. The company said that it works by emitting positive and negative ions that inactivate harmful molecules on surfaces and in the air. Furthermore, it neutralizes particulate matter such as bacteria, viruses, and even unpleasant odors coming from organic materials.

New Engineered Seats

Social distancing is a big concern regarding air travel. Airplanes were designed to maximize efficiency in space, so they are not optimized for physical distancing. But manufacturers are now coming up with new ideas to integrate these two concepts.

Aviointeriors, an Italian aircraft interiors specialist, unveiled their new designs that include a booth-like transparent shield that can be installed on existing seats and a new economy-class configuration with a backward-facing middle seat. The company said that these designs could be in a very short time. Glassafe is a kit-level solution that acts as a barrier between seats to make close proximity safer without compromising seat-back amenities such as tables, magazine pockets, and coat hooks.

On the other hand, Janus Seat, named after the two-faced god of Ancient Rome, is the proposed new configuration for the economy-class. The middle seat is faced backward to ensure maximum isolation of passengers with each other. The seats are also fitted with transparent shields to create a protective barrier for everyone.


The above-mentioned technologies are only some of the solutions that aircraft manufacturers are currently developing. We are likely to see more and more of these creative solutions in the future. However, not all of them will make their way onto passenger planes. What’s certain is that manufacturers are doing their best to make air travel much safer.

Knisley Exhaust does the same. We want you to feel safe as you conquer the skies. For all repairs and maintenance you need for your aircraft, contact us at 800-522-6990.