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Guide for Disinfection of General Aviation Aircraft

Guide for Disinfection of General Aviation Aircraft

The following guide is specifically for General Aviation (GA) aircraft focusing on aircraft that are operated, or worked on, by more than one person outside your household.

The risk:

The advice appears to be that Coronavirus seems to transmit through body fluids. This implies that droplets exhaled through coughing and sneezing may transmit the virus directly from person to person. However, the virus can survive for a significant amount of time on different types of surfaces. If you touch a surface that has been touched, sneezed, coughed or spat upon by an infected person, you may be exposed to the virus.

In the air: Infectious disease researchers have found COVID-19 remains infectious in contaminated airborne respiratory droplets for at least three hours, however they have not determined whether humans produce enough of the disease in a single cough or sneeze to infect another person.

On soft, porous surfaces: COVID-19 can survive on porous surfaces like cardboard, paper, clothing and soft furnishings like seat covers (fabric or leather) and internal linings for up to 24 hours. Porous surfaces allow air and water to pass through, which makes them much less likely to hold infectious volumes of the virus compared to non-porous objects like door handles, taps and phone covers.

On hard, shiny surfaces: COVID-19 has been proven to stay active on hard surfaces like glass, plastic and stainless steel for up to 72 hours. Hard, shiny materials are non-porous which means water, air and vapour cannot pass through and instead rest and accumulate on the surface.

Cleaning and Disinfection:

Unless you are certain that no-one outside your household has touched or entered your aircraft in the last 5 days, before flight, clean all surfaces where that may have been in contact with other people. Even if your aircraft is locked and you are certain that no-one else has entered the cabin or opened any access covers/hatches, it is recommended that you disinfect all external handles, hand-holds, catches, etc.

Consider wearing a facemask while cleaning.

Do not use compressed air, steamers or pressure washers. Viruses that are stationary on a surface may be sent back up into the air and inhaled.

Do not start the cleaning process with a vacuum cleaner. Viruses may be blown through the filter and back into the air and inhaled (few vacuum cleaner filters stop the virus). A vacuum cleaner should only be used on surfaces that have already been disinfected. If possible, keep the body of the vacuum cleaner outside the aircraft to ensure that exhaust is blown away to the open air.

Do not use an ionizer. Although it effectively attacks organic matter, it will also attack parts made of organic material, as rubber, plastics and leather. Be aware of the effect of ozon on rubber hoses.

Do not use hydrogen peroxide. Although effective, when vaporized it will deteriorate leather, acrylic fixtures and polycarbonate windows.

Do not use anti-bacterial cleaners.COVID-19 is a virus, so they will have no effect.

Do first clean hard surfaces with warm, soapy water and then disinfect them.

Do use a disinfectant that has a documented effect on the corona virus, such as:

  • Diluted household bleach solution; leave the bleach solution to work for 10 to 15 minutes then wipe the surface with a clean cloth.
  • Surgical spirit; moisten a cloth with some neat surgical spirit and rub it over a surface. This will evaporate and you will not need to wipe it off.
  • Antiseptic surface wipes; the wipes work by physically removing germs through the pressure you apply when you use them, and the virus then attaches to the wipe, which should be disposed of in a bin and not flushed down a toilet or drain.

If you are buying disinfectant, check the product information to make sure it says it combats viruses including influenza and human coronaviruses – an example is Dettol surface cleanser.

It’s also important to follow the instructions carefully. Some products may require you to leave the product on for a set amount of time for it to work properly. Ventilating the aircraft while you clean is also a good idea. Wear protective gear as recommended by the manufacturer.

You should also never mix different cleaning products together as they could create harmful fumes.

If you cannot get hold of ready-made substances for cleaning purposes, it is possible to mix one. A solution of Isopropyl alcohol (IPA) 60 % and 40 % water is effective on most surfaces and seat cover textiles. A 50/50-mix IPA solution will be suitable on most instrument panels. Leather and windows should not be treated with alcohol. A household dishwasher detergent is another option. Be careful to apply the right disinfectant on the right surface.

Some chemicals are corrosive. Do not use them on metals.

Some chemicals make plastic brittle. Do not use them on plastics. Be careful not to spill on electric wires where the insulation may get damaged and arcing may ensue.

Some chemicals are destructive to textiles, so avoid using them on textiles. Special care should be exercised when disinfecting seatbelts.

Electronics and instruments:

Use a microfibre cloth to clean electronic displays and glass, as not to cause scratches.

Do not use wet-wipes, products containing citric acids or sodium bicarbonate. These can etch the display.

Most disinfecting agents that effectively kill the virus, are dangerous to people. Provide good ventilation wherever you are cleaning and wear protective gear as recommended by the manufacturer.

Typical avionics with anti-reflective glass, for example G 1000, may be cleaned with a 50/50 IPA-solution. Some displays have plastic screens (acrylic, lexan or polycarbonate), for example the GNS 430 and 530-series. Use a mild soap solution instead and consult the manufacturer.

When it comes to instruments in the cockpit, more is not always better. Use as little fluid as possible and keep it on as short as possible to kill virus. Then wipe it off. Avoid getting fluids into the instrument panel.

Finally:

Use gloves for your pre-flight inspection of the aircraft.

Use only your own personal equipment. Headsets should not be shared between pilots or passengers. Eyes, nose and mouth are gateways for the virus. Using a headset that has been used by others, will represent a high risk, even if the headset has been cleaned.

After flight good practice should be to clean and disinfect every instrument or part of the cockpit that have been touched.

Even with a cleaned and disinfected aircraft, you may still be infected if you enter a small aircraft with an infected person. During the corona outbreak you should only fly with persons in your own household or keep the minimum distance recommended by the health authorities. This means that you may have to postpone flying with an instructor, examiner or friend.

Precautions may need to be continued beyond the current lockdown.

Always follow Government advice and any regulations in force.

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