By Cat Hofacker|September 2020
Honeywell Aerospace has a bright idea to help airlines reduce transmission of covid-19.
The company in June unveiled the UV Cabin System for no-contact sanitization of cabins and flight decks via ultraviolet light, a technique long relied on by hospitals. The machine bathes surfaces in UVC, or ultraviolet C light, whose wavelengths between 200 and 280 nanometers are energetic enough to warp the genetic material of pathogens, including the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes covid-19, according to trials at the University of Boston.
Eight of the machines were delivered to the first customer, JetBlue, in July. The airline will test the machines in airports in New York and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to see how it fits in with other cleaning methods.
At roughly the size of an aircraft beverage cart, the machine fits in the aisles of most passenger aircraft, says Brian Wenig, vice president and general manager of the Honeywell division building the machines. Wings extend over the top of passenger seats and are each embedded with six 35-watt and 95-watt bulbs; they can extend up to 24 meters to cover the wider rows on double-aisle planes.
Because the more powerful UVC rays would be damaging to human eyes and skin, the person operating the UV Cabin System is safeguarded by plastic shields on either side of the controls.
Cleaning begins at the front of an aircraft, with a crew member or hired cleaner holding down two spring-loaded switches to turn on the UVC lights. They push the cart down the plane aisle while the arms beam UVC light onto seats, seat belts and video screens, Wenig says. To ensure the correct dosage, a speedometer on the dashboard displays the cart’s speed. For narrower areas such as the on-board lavatories, the worker can turn the cart sideways to extend one of the wings inside, folding the other with the touch of a button.
The cart is one of a handful of UV sanitation devices companies have proposed for cleansing aircraft, including a hand wand Boeing is developing for harder-to-reach areas. Honeywell favors its cart design because “it is very repeatable and very consistent in the way it applies the dose of UV light,” Wenig says.
“It is one piece of equipment that [airlines] can use very consistently to clean the aircraft surfaces,” he says. “There’s other areas that will need to be cleaned” by hand wiping or electrostatic spraying, including seat-back pockets and underneath tray tables, “but this gives them in under 10 minutes a solution to clean all the high-touch surfaces in the aircraft.”