Boeing and the University of Arizona have shown through unprecedented testing that the cleaning methods currently used by airlines are effective against the virus that is causing COVID-19. The tests are part of the Boeing Safe Travel Initiative, which supports airlines and seeks to improve the safety and well-being of passengers and crew members during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The tests were conducted on an empty Boeing plane with a live virus called MS2 in late July. The results were then correlated with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in a protected laboratory setting at the Department of Environmental Sciences at the University of Arizona.
“Although these cleaning methods have been tested in different environments, an aircraft is different. It was important for us to evaluate and confirm that the chemicals and techniques we recommend to our customers are effective in a real world situation, ”said Mike Delaney, director of the Boeing Safe Travel Initiative. “By working with the University of Arizona, we were able to leverage world-renowned virology expertise to do just that.”
Escherichia MS2 virus is safe and harmless to humans, and harder to kill than SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The MS2 virus has been used in scientific and industrial studies for many years, but never in an aircraft cabin. The University of Arizona delivered the MS2 virus and analyzed the test results.
“With this study, we were able to test and validate for the first time that disinfection methods eliminate SARS-CoV-2 in an airplane,” said University of Arizona microbiologist Dr. Charles Gerba. “It is important to realize that it is not just SARS-CoV-2, but other viruses and microorganisms as well.”
The MS2 was placed in strategic high contact points throughout the cabin, including on the dining tables, armrests, seats, luggage compartments, bathrooms and the galley. Technicians disinfected each area with different products and technologies. Chemical disinfectants have been applied in two ways: manual cleaning and with an electrostatic spray, a device that applies a low pressure spray of a liquid disinfectant. The tests also measured how well Boeing’s UV stick and antimicrobial coatings performed. Antimicrobial agents are long-lasting coatings that destroy germs and viruses on surfaces
The University of Arizona analyzed each area after disinfection to determine effectiveness. The results showed varying levels of effectiveness, but ultimately all products, methods, and technologies successfully eliminated the MS2 virus.
Boeing and the University of Arizona continue to test recommended cleaning methods in a laboratory using SARS-CoV-2 and other similar viruses to further validate their effectiveness.