The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has ordered a study of the air quality in cabins and cockpits during all phases of flight. This is an update to the last study, conducted between 2008 and 2010, which indicated pollution levels comparable to those observed within habitable dwellings.
Most aircraft use engine power to ventilate the cabin. The air is taken at point of entry to the engine, and supplied to the cabin via several filters. Only the Boeing 787, today, has developed an alternative sytem by capturing air from outside the fuselage, with electrical compressors. This avoids the air going through the engine, one of the two possible sources of cabin pollution.
Compressing and heating air via the engines consumes fuel. From the 80’s, in an effort to reduce the bill, it was decided to recycle part of the air we breathe in an airplane.
Nicolas Bonleux, Managing director - Liebherr Aerospace & Transportation :
"The air used in the cabin follows strict regulatory standards. On average, according to the aircraft and flight phase, half the cabin air is renewed at any given moment. In other words, half the air is what we call recirculated, which means that the air already present, is filtered and reinjected back into the cabin ; the other half comes from the engines.’’
The second source of pollution in a plane is from the passengers themselves, which in turn carries their viruses and bacteria. However the ventilation of a ‘plane provides large volumes of air to the passenger, an average of 350 litres ( 92.5 U.S. gallons ) per minute, per person, which is sufficient according to this doctor.
Henri Marotte, Aerospace medical specialist :
"The cabin is so ventilated that, despite the extreme proximity of passengers, the aircraft is not an environment where infectious diseases can spread in any alarming way.’’
Over and above the health criteria, the study, at present being diligently conducted by the European agency, also takes into account air comfort, which can sometimes be too cold and too dry. It will not be until the end of 2016 before the results are published.