TRANSCOM/AMC Commercial Aircraft Cabin Aerosol Dispersion Tests

The COVID-19 pandemic, has led to questions regarding the potential risk of SARS-CoV-2 exposure, which may lead to transmission, amongst passengers on an aircraft, and the safety of travelers. It is difficult to determine the potential exposure risk using available computational fluid dynamics models or contact tracing methods, due to the lack of experimental validation of aerosol transport in the aircraft environment and the lack of detailed tracking of human interactions in aircraft. Using fluorescent aerosol tracers between 1-3 µm and real time optical sensors, coupled with DNA-tagged tracers to measure aerosol deposition, the authors completed the largest aircraft aerosol experimental validation testing to date, with 8 days of testing involving both inflight and ground tests on Boeing 777-200 and 767-300 airframes. Tracer aerosols were released from a simulated infected passenger, in multiple rows and seats, to determine their risk of exposure and penetration into breathing zones of nearby seats. In particular, penetration into the breathing zones of passengers seated in the same row and in numerous rows in front and back of the source were measured. Over 300 aerosol release tests were performed repeatedly releasing 180,000,000 fluorescent tracer particles from the aerosol source (simulated virus aerosol), with 40+ Instantaneous Biological Analyzer and Collector (IBAC) sensors placed in passenger breathing zones for real-time measurement of simulated virus particle penetration. In total, more than 11,500 breathing zone seat measurements were taken with releases in 46 seats of the airframes. Results from the Boeing 777-200 and 767-300 airframes showed a minimum reduction of 99.7% of 1 µm simulated virus aerosol from the index source to passengers seated directly next to the source. An average 99.99% reduction was measured for the 40+ breathing zones tested in each section of both airframes. Rapid dilution, mixing and purging of aerosol from the index source was observed due to both airframes’ high air exchange rates, downward ventilation design, and high efficiency particulate air (HEPA)-filtered recirculation. Contamination of surfaces from aerosol sources was minimal, and DNA-tagged 3 µm tracers agreed well with real-time fluorescent results. Transmission model calculations using the measured aerosol breathing zone penetration data indicates an extremely unlikely aerosol exposure risk for a 12 hour flight when using a 4,000 virion/hour shedding rate and 1,000 virion infectious dose.

  • Record URL:
  • Corporate Authors:

    United States Transportation Command

    Scott Air Force Base, IL  United States 

    Air Mobility Command

    Scott Air Force Base, IL  United States 

    University of Nebraska, Omaha

    National Strategic Research Institute
    Omaha, NE  United States 

    Zeteo Tech, LLC


    S3i, LLC

  • Authors:
    • Silcott, David
    • Kinahan, Sean
    • Santarpia, Joshua
    • Silcott, Blake
    • Silcott, Ryan
    • Silcott, Peter
    • Silcott, Braden
    • Distelhorst, Steven
    • Herrera, Vicki
    • Rivera, Danielle
    • Crown, Kevin
    • Lucero, Gabriel
    • Bryden, Wayne
    • McLoughlin, Mike
    • Cetta, Maximilian
    • Accardi, Russell
  • Publication Date: 2020


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Digital/other
  • Edition: Final Report
  • Features: Appendices; Figures; Photos; References; Tables;
  • Pagination: 53p

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01756337
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Oct 28 2020 9:30AM