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Study: Almost impossible to contract COVID-19 on an airplane

New research into the air filtration systems on commercial passenger jets has found that it is almost impossible to contract COVID-19 while on an airplane.

A new military-led study unveiled Thursday shows there is a low risk for passengers traveling aboard large commercial aircraft to contract an airborne virus such as COVID-19 — and it doesn’t matter where they sit on the airplane.

Researchers concluded that because of sophisticated air particle filtration and ventilation systems on board the Boeing 767-300 and 777-200 aircraft — the planes tested for the study — airborne particles within the cabin have a very short lifespan, according to defense officials with U.S. Transportation Command, the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) and Air Mobility Command, which spearheaded the study.

You can read the report [pdf] here. I especially like this quote from their conclusions:

For the 777 and 767, at 100% seating capacity transmission model calculations with a 4,000 viruses/hour shedding rate and 1,000 virus infectious dose show a minimum 54 flight hours required to produce inflight infection from aerosol transmission.

In other words, you can fly around the world more than twice on the same plane, without stopping, without any real risk of getting infected.

Need I add that the use of a mask will likely make no difference either, while probably increasing your chances of catching some disease simply because the long term use of any single mask is unsanitary and almost guarantees it will be carrying pathogens on your face where you breathe?

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.

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"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News


  • Phill O

    Great. However, we have never been on these planes.

  • John

    What!? No way.

    Aircraft are disgusting petri dishes filled with cooties, and that was before the panicdemic. Flight attendants must have better immune systems than school teachers.

    Can’t help but notice United and Boeing in the acknowledgements. It would be interesting to see if a peer review could tear the study apart.

    But, at least the methods, equipment, and data are right there. Unlike the “science is settled” crowd.

  • LocalFluff

    4,000 virus per hour? Where do they get that miniscule number from? During the first week with flu symptoms, one produces more like 500,000,000 virus per hour.

  • Tom

    “…4,000 virus per hour? Where do they get that miniscule number from? During the first week with flu symptoms, one produces more like 500,000,000 virus per hour…”

    So says “LocalFluff” without any sourcing or evidence that others can reference and use to make an informed decision.

    LocalFluff??!! Really?

  • LocalFluff

    Just look at Wikipedia to get a sense of the numbers involved:
    “When an infected person sneezes or coughs more than half a million virus particles can be spread to those close by.”
    Half a million in one sneeze is more than a thousand times the virus particles that model seems to assume per hour. That is for someone who shows symptoms.

    The number of virus particles in the biosphere is estimated to be 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. That’s why the word virus doesn’t have a plural form, like air, it is everywhere. (“virii” is false Latin).

    This is a technical paper, but they estimate that hundreds of millions of virus fall from the sky on each square meter of Earth EVERY DAY! That’s still less than 10^20 globally per year, so only one in a trillion of all virus in the biosphere. 4,000 virus is nothing.

  • Slatey Cleavage

    Wikipedia is biased.. It never should be used as a reference. Means nothing.

  • Cotour

    I thought this was interesting:

  • LocalFluff

    @Slatey Cleavage
    I gave an easily accessible example of how extremely numerous virus are. But if you and Tom here want to be wrong by a factor of a hundred per sneeze, and think that 4,000 virus is relevant to “model”, then you are welcome to remain wrong and keep on failing! (It’s just that reality doesn’t like people who are wrong and fail and tends to get rid of them in its selection process).

  • F16 Guy


    Excellent link. Thanks

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