It is no surprise that there has been a renewed interest in air quality onboard aircraft during the COVID-19 pandemic and this is likely to continue long after. The good news is that aircraft are amongst the cleanest internal environments, with either highly effective filters or fresh air circulations. Either could be used on private aircraft, and both offer very clean and safe air.
Clean Air Onboard
Aircraft manufacturers have been aware of the importance of clean air on an aircraft long before the current pandemic. Viruses and diseases can easily circulate in a confined cabin, and offering a safe environment for passengers has long been a priority.
On most aircraft, this is achieved in one of two ways – recirculated and filtered air systems or fresh air systems. Larger commercial aircraft will usually make use of filtration systems. But a private jet could use either of these methods.
Smaller jets, in particular, are more likely to use fresh air systems. But either system delivers the same result – continual replacement of the cabin air throughout the flight.
Recirculated Air Systems
From the name, this may immediately sound like reused air, but in reality it is far from that. The key is the use of HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filters to clean the air before re-introduction to the cabin. The system will filter the current cabin air and mix it with some re-introduced fresh air before passing it back into the cabin. This can result in the entire cabin air being filtered and replaced 20 to 30 times per hour. You won’t get even close to that on the ground!
HEPA filters are highly effective. These days, manufacturers claim they can remove 99.97% of viruses, bacteria, and other harmful particles from the air.
Fresh Air Systems
The alternative to filtering and recycling the air is to use fresh, outside air. These systems introduce air continuously through the engines. This is cooled, sterilized, and compressed before passing into the cabin. Old cabin air is vented out. Such a system can entirely replace the cabin air on most aircraft in around two minutes.
The continual re-introduction of fresh air ensures a clean and virus-free cabin. There is no need with such a system to use HEPA filters.
Which Systems Are Used By Which Jets?
Most jets use just one of these methods, but some may offer a choice of either. Some users may have a preference for one method. And it is generally easier to control temperature and humidity with a recirculated system.
Some aircraft that use HEPA filters include the Dassault Falcon 7X and 8X (Dassault is currently looking at making them available for the Falcon 900 and 2000 models), the Citation Latitude and Longitude, Embraer Praetor 500 and 600, and Bombardier Global models.
All Gulfstream aircraft use fresh air systems. So do some Bombardier models and Citation jets (other than Latitude and Longitude).
Gulfstream also offers a plasma ionization purification system as an upgrade for several models. This further treats the incoming air supply to remove viruses and bacteria.
With good systems to re-circulate air in place for a long time, aviation is ahead of many other industries for clean and safe air. And with equally good systems and smaller cabins (not to mention less people), private jets are a step above large commercial aircraft. So breathe in deep on your next flight!
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