Central WA’s ‘Air Shield’ technology targets virus protection on planes

Air travelers are returning to the skies and US planes are now generally flying at full throttle and many passengers are not wearing masks – a concern for those most vulnerable to COVID-19 infection.

Pexco Aerospace, based in Union Gap in south-central Washington, plans to offer a solution to airlines that may be ready to fly next year.

It has teamed up with Seattle-based Teague, a leading design firm, to produce a simple snap-on plastic component that creates an “air shield” system which it touts as added protection for passengers in airlines against virus transmission.

“There are still a lot of people concerned about aviation safety,” said Jon Page, president of Pexco. “We hope this will give people some peace of mind.”

Pexco, a unit of multinational aerospace conglomerate Transdigm, employs about 200 people in Union Gap, Yakima County, making plastic parts and trim for aircraft cabin interiors, such as components for lighting and storage bins and covers for the seat rails.

The new product, a concept developed by Teague in 2020, is a plastic component that fits over the air vents above each row of passenger seats and redirects airflow.

Instead of a cone of air flowing over a passenger’s head from a pinhole above, several thin, curved slits in the plastic turn the flow into a curved “curtain” of air. fresh air surrounding the passenger on the side and in front.

The idea is that the air exhaled by the passenger, even a cough or sneeze, will be directed downwards by the airflow to the cabin exhaust vents at ground level.

Pexco said its tests show the system reduces air particles shared between neighboring passengers by 76% in an economy cabin.

It is designed to be easily installed on a Boeing 737 or Airbus A320.

Page said Pexco worked with Alaska Airlines and Southwest to develop and test the system and is in the process of obtaining certification from the Federal Aviation Administration.

He said with just one last smoke test to complete, the system could be certified this summer and installed on the first jetliners next year.

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