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Ashmita Sethi serves as Managing Director in India for Pratt & Whitney. In this role, she provides strategic direction for growth and business goals in India.

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Aviation industry restoring confidence in healthy flight

Commercial passenger traffic declined dramatically during the emergence of COVID-19, but as economies start to reopen, it is showing glimmers of recovery. The aviation industry, including many Pratt & Whitney customers, is working to encourage travel by educating the flying public and by implementing new procedures and technologies for safer travel.

The International Civil Aviation Organization’s Council Aviation Recovery Task Force released Take-off: Guidance for Air Travel through the COVID-19 Public Health Crisis. The document provides a framework for addressing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, including a section on public health risk mitigation measures and four operational modules relating to airport, aircraft, crew and cargo guidelines. The framework also includes risk-based stages for mitigation measures.

Both Airbus and Boeing are researching coronavirus behavior inside jetliners. Their work will involve academics, engineers and medical experts, who will examine new measures to prevent disease transmission on airplanes.

Airbus announced it has extended research activities from its 2017 cooperation agreement with Koniku Inc. to include biological hazard detection. The technical solution uses genetically engineered odorant receptors that produce an alarm signal when they come into contact with the molecular compounds of the hazard they have been programmed to detect.

Boeing launched the Confident Travel Initiative to develop new ways to help minimize air travel health risks amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and drive awareness of health safeguards already in place. The team will work with airlines, global regulators, industry stakeholders, flying passengers, infectious disease experts and behavioral specialists to establish industry-recognized safety recommendations. The team is tackling topics such as existing disinfectants, sanitizers and high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters, as well as researching and evaluating new technologies to enhance safety, including ultraviolet light disinfecting systems and antimicrobial coatings for high-touch surfaces. 

Embraer published a perspective piece called “Clean Air, Clean Cabin, Safe Flight” to educate the flying public about why it isn’t necessary – or economically viable – to only sell tickets for a limited number of airplane seats. It explains HEPA filters and air circulation within an aircraft cabin, sharing the science behind clean airflow. The article states that the air in an Embraer E-Jet cabin is completely refreshed at least 20 times every hour, and that most aircraft exchange their entire volume of cabin air 20 to 30 times more frequently than the air in an office, and five to six times more than hospitals. 

Individually, airlines around the world have made decisions on how to adjust their policies and procedures in response to the virus. The most common actions taken by airlines include amplified cleaning, temperature checks, rapid COVID-19 tests and requiring employees and passengers to wear protective face masks during flights. 

The aerospace industry continues to work to combat the virus with the most effective means. While measures vary from airline to airline and from airport to airport, it is agreed that restoring confidence in air travel requires everyone – even the individual passenger – to play a part in ensuring passenger and crew member safety.