Video shows how coronavirus can easily spread on a plane

A video has shown how far coronavirus droplets could spread through a plane’s cabin in seconds if a person is not wearing a face mask.

The travel industry has been hard-hit during the pandemic, as fleets of planes have been grounded while countries across the world closed their borders. But officials are now moving towards easing travel restrictions and getting the industry up and running again.

Many airlines have been looking at how to safely restart international travel, with the UK implementing a 14-day quarantine period for all arrivals to the uk. But bosses in the air travel industry and a cross-party group of MPs have called for plans to be scrapped.

The industry is seeking to establish ways to make air travel safe again and new physics-based simulations may be able to help bosses understand how the virus spreads in a confined space.

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A video from Ansys, which creates engineering simulation software, shows how air circulates within a plane cabin and how airborne particles spread between passengers with and without face masks.

It shows that wearing a mask on a plane can significantly reduce the distance the particles travel, reducing the risk of droplets dispersing to other passengers.

The image below shows how wearing a mask on a plane would prevent a large number of droplets from entering the cabin.


The second image above shows how those droplets would then circulate in the cabin. On the left, where no masks are worn, there are noticeably more droplets above the passengers than on the right where masks are worn.

Another new simulation shows how UV light treatment could be used to deactivate the virus in aircraft cabins between flights, said Ansys.

Airbus and Boeing are understood to have both explored using UV light to deactivate coronavirus particles between flights, which is also being trialled in New York by the Metropolitan Transit Authority on subway cars.

UV light disinfection systems operate on the principle of ‘line of sight,’ said Ansys. This means that for a surface to be disinfected, it needs to be directly within sight of the light source.

Any shadows caused by obstructing objects can cause incomplete coverage of the surface.

Another simulation uses a robot delivery system that could disinfect an aircraft in just a few minutes while it is stationary at the gate.

It can cover all the surfaces efficiently but it may not be a time effective option as it must enter and exit for each clean-down. It may also struggle to navigate in between tight seats.

For now, it is not clear what exact restrictions may be implemented on flights but Heathrow’s chief executive has previously warned that social distancing will not work at airports.

John Holland-Kaye said it could cause travellers to queue for up to half a mile long just to board the aircraft and social distancing will be ‘impossible’.

Under current plans set to be implemented by the UK government, those who do not isolate for two weeks on arrival could face fines of up to £1,000.

But the Future of Aviation Group penned a letter to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, warning that failure to successfully reboot air travel could lead to the loss of millions of jobs.

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