Computational Fluid Dynamics Modeling and the Transport of Cough Particles in an Aircraft Cabin

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Using a method of mathematical modeling known as computational fluid dynamics (CFD), Boeing researchers tracked cough particle movement inside the aircraft cabin. The CFD analysis showed the transmission of particles is mitigated by the cabin design and airflow system. Modeling showed cough particles were removed from the breathing zones of passengers in approximately 90 seconds.

The combination of high air exchange rate (every 2-3 minutes), air flowing from ceiling to floor in a circular pattern, high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters that trap 99.9%+ of particulates and the airplane seat configurations (forward facing, high-back seating) contribute to a reduction in passenger exposure to particles, according to researchers.

Boeing's CFD findings were consistent with the results of cough particle testing conducted onboard an airplane, both on the ground and in flight. This research led by the U.S. Transportation Command found the cabin environment limits particle movement and quickly removes them from the air. Within the scope of the testing, the TRANSCOM results showed an overall low exposure risk from aerosolized pathogens like COVID-19.

The CFD research is part of Boeing's data-driven scientific and engineering approach to minimize air travel health risks and to enhance the safeguards already in place throughout the end-to-end travel journey. As part of its Confident Travel Initiative, Boeing is working with airlines, global regulators, industry stakeholders, and others throughout the air travel industry to ensure the health and safety of the air travel experience.

Boeing will continue to make additional internal studies publicly available on the Confident Travel Initiative website. These studies build on the research conducted by industry, academia and medical experts on the transmission and risks of COVID-19 throughout the travel journey.