United Airlines has announced that it will use ultraviolet C (UVC) light to clean the flight decks on some of its aircraft.
The decision came after consulting with the Cleveland Clinic. “United implementing UVC lighting in its flight decks is an important tactic because we know that the virus can be killed by ultraviolet light,” said Dr. James Merlino, Chief Clinical Transformation Officer at Cleveland Clinic. “It’s one more measure that we can implement to ensure that we’re doing all we can to keep passengers, flight attendants and crews safer.”
Ultraviolet light is a type of electromagnetic radiation and it has three categories: A, B, and C. Each of the three categories has a different wavelength. UVA has the longest wavelength while UVC has the shortest wavelength (and therefore the highest energy). Due to its short wavelength and high energy, UVC can be used as a disinfectant while the other categories of ultraviolet light cannot. UVC’s properties make it capable of disrupting the DNA of microorganisms and destroying their nucleic acids.
According to the carrier, UVC technology is being used on “most” aircraft at its hub airports. United is using a handheld device manufactured by American Ultraviolet called the UVC blade to perform the flight deck cleanings. American Ultraviolet describes the device on its website as “a handheld, portable UVC disinfection device designed to deactivate bacteria, viruses and fungi in spaces where traditional hard-mounted UVC fixtures are inconvenient to be mounted; and where portable devices have limited access.”
The flight deck is particularly suited for use of UVC cleaning since there are many areas that could potentially be damaged by traditional wipes and cleaning liquids. Indeed, United’s Senior Vice President of Flight Operations, Bryan Quigley, noted this point, “Safety is our highest priority and we continue to research, test and roll out new technologies to keep our aircraft and terminals safe for both customers and crew.”
“Flight decks have many working parts, screens and components that are challenging to clean with traditional hand wipes and liquids, especially for someone who isn’t a pilot. The UVC lighting gives us a faster, more effective disinfection of one of the most important areas of the aircraft,” he continued.
In addition to cleaning flight decks with UVC, United is also utilizing electrostatic spraying to disinfect aircraft cabins.