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Breathing Clean Air At 30,000 Feet On American Airlines, Thanks To HEPA Filters

Breathing clean air at 30,000 feet on American Airlines, thanks to HEPA filters. American has been using these filters to purify the air on their entire mainline and most regional fleet since the late 1990s. The HEPA technology is also used help keep medical environments clear of bacteria and viruses while providing clean air. ( More...

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SkyAware123 6
ISn't HEPA technology over half a century old already ? Doesn't every plane have HEPA filters?
Pretty much any pressurized airliner
djames225 14
Why the H does AA make it seem like they are the only carriers with a HEPA system? Donaldson APS systems have been going in 787's A320's and A330's for a while now, bleed air or not, and not just for AA. Most all aircraft have HEPA system of some sort.
jetplt 4
Sell the sizzle! Most ppl have no idea what HEPA even stands for.
Greg S 8
A HEPA filter is one thing and protection from Covid-19 is another. Just because HEPA *can* trap Covid-19 virii doesn't mean it will, and it doesn't mean that Covid-19 won't spread like wildfire on a plane with a good HEPA system. What is needed is a good science that measures the risks for this specific environment. That simply doesn't exist yet. This is nothing more than a misleading advert for American Airlines.
rene heuscher 0
You are correct, no science here. HEPA filters are designed to filter particles of 300 nano meters or more. Not probable to have any ability to filter a virus that is 5 nano meters.
Well, not really true. First of all the virus that causes COVID19 is approximately 125 nanometers (.125 microns) not 5. Secondly, NASA quotes this study study they did ( that clearly shows almost 100% efficiency at .01 micron or 10 nanometers or above.
Austin Byrd 5
And, HEPA won't do anything to filter out pyrolysed engine oil from the high-pressure bleed air - so there's still the trycresyl phosphate exposure risk - but, but I suppose if nobody sneezes and the engine seals don't leak too much, we'll all be fine.
zuluzuluzulu 7
This is balony. An infected person in row 30 can infect another person in row 1 with the backdraft of a F/A pushing a drink cart up the aisle.

In the days of smoking sections, there was always a haze of cigarette smoke hanging over the passengers. You could smell the smoke up front.

They stopped serving peanuts because the smell of peanuts can cause allergic people to have aa reaction.

Dont buy into this marketing ploy. The aircraft is pressuized. The air has to stay inside for awhile.
Right, no matter how careful one is, airflow does not take a direct route from one's nose (exhaling) to where the air exits the cabin and heads back to the filter. (No, I don't know the technical terms for those things.) It may waft around in a circle for a while, or be drafted (as mentioned here) by someone walking down the aisle or just decide to settle into someone's drink glass. All of life is playing the percentages.
blcampbell 2
Lol @ “ The aircraft is pressuized. The air has to stay inside for awhile.”.

You’re not familiar with pressurization systems on aircraft are you?
zuluzuluzulu 4
delta line mainenance for 35 years. I know more than you do!
And also that the exchange rate is around 4 minutes ... through the mentioned HEPA filters.
zuluzuluzulu -2
Sounds like it would make for a windy cabin if that were true.
Highflyer1950 2
Then you would remember those big outflow valves on the L-1011 at the front.
Highflyer1950 6
Sure helps that the B787 does not use bleed air, plus the 9.4psi pressure differential lowers the cabin altitude by at least 2000’ over the standard bleed air pressurized aircraft makes for a better environment!
This is 'feel good' bullshit. Seriously! American is trying to make rubes feel good about exposing themselves on their FULL PLANES so they can make as much money as they can until the whole country closes down, or goes out of business.

A full plane, and some 'magical' HEPA filters are going to save you from the idiot sitting next to you who has COVID and doesn't know it yet? Sure, and magic is real...
Larry Toler 2
I have to agree with you on that. While working for Satair, most cabin air filters I've shipped out were HEPA. AA certainly not the only airline to use them. You're right, a BS feel good article.
Robert Cowling -3
Thanks. I was friends with a commercial pilot, and he described the 'security theatre' that was ushered in after 9/11. He said that, in the beginning, and continuing, it was all about 'looking' like they were doing something. 'Looking' like things were getting better. All while not patting down daily workers and cleaning crews that had complete access to all of the planes. He loved to tell the story about how he was 'liberated' from his decades old butter knife by a TSA agent who seriously labeled it a 'threat'. He, the pilot of the plane he was going to be the pilot of was carrying a blunt butter knife, and that knife (unable to cut much besides butter) was viewed as dire threat to the passengers. Read that again if it doesn't make you shake your head. The pilot that could drive the plane into the ground, is a 'threat' over a butter knife. I had a 'monkey fist' key chain 'stolen' by TSA because it was deemed a weapon. A key chain I had flown with repeatedly for years, was all of the sudden deemed a dire threat to the plane. A weapon...

The most dire weapon is the stupidity of people trying to prove they need their jobs.

The main purpose of a bureaucracy is to continue the bureaucracy.

Now, all cleaning and maintenance crews are security checked, but something less than 15% of the cargo that airlines carry on a daily basis is even superficially x-rayed.
Robert cowling..discussing hepa filters on aircraft,and using that as a comparison to tsa and 9/11 makes no sense..they are in two different arenas..this virus is an "unseen"threat to everyone,including pilots and flight attendants and ground order to stay in business because there is no vaccine to fight this thing only seen in microscopes,the airlines are promoting every and all safety issues they can (except announcing they will fill middle seats)..anyone who owns a vacuum cleaner or a home filtering system knows hepa filters are not the total answer to microbes or dust or anything else..they are merely an assist as the only truly clean purified air you can get is in a to your pilot friend and his "butter knife",the only "weapons" carried by the cockpit crews I knew were (and may still be)a firearm authorized for one of the cockpit members and easily accessible to him or her with assignment by aa and approval..there also might be an air marshall with a firearm..just like passengers,any other item such as a knife or unauthorized forearm was not allowed..cargo is actually a bigger business for all the carriers now and in the past,than passengers, and the crates or bundles are x-rayed...
Erik Wile 4
Robert's comparison makes perfect sense. The 9/11 terror attacks prompted a fear of flying that the airlines combatted by instituting security theater. The airborn deadly coronavirus pandemic has also prompted a fear of flying that the airlines are attempting to combat by instituing hygiene theater to try to make the public feel like they can go back to "normal." Sure they're in different arenas [terrorists vs airborne virus] but the effect [reduced travel] and countermeasures [feel good measures / stories] are a perfect parallel.
rlowney 2
The problem is these morons don't think like labs who deal with this stuff every day. How do they handle this stuff in the labs? It has to do with airflow. Airflow away from people. If they could figure out a way to flow air up and away from people then catching it in the filter system, oh and let's add a bit of UV light to make sure we really kill any little suckers that may be still alive before we put it back through, then maybe we'd have a safer environment!
Gordon Musch 6
As a OR nurse we use these "systems" for many cases. This super clean HEPA filtered air comes down from the ceiling, directly over the patient. This is the cleanest air and we want that clean air to then move around the patient and then flow out of the room, sometimes by vents that are at floor level. If you want the air to flow upwards, that air will bring any contaminates that were on the floor up and over on to the patient. Same on a plane, bringing up that air brings all the floor stuff with it. And Level 4 bio-labs also work the same way. Ceiling to floor, then that air is frequently incinerated also to kill the virus and bugs in it. And in a Level 4 lab everyone is also wearing isolation suits and they do not share air either. And it is frequently incinerated also.
rlowney -2
My point is airflow. Up or down whichever is the best. As I said whatever they do int he labs where they deal with infectious diseases. That was my point. Speaking to professionals that do these types of jobs and getting their expertise was my point. OK?!!
user3956 2
Get butt hurt much?
rlowney 2
No just tired of people being so abrasive. Instead of acknowledging the spirit of the idea, there's always someone who has to nitpick and lose the whole concept just to be "right". I don't know how we will ever work together again if this attitude doesn't change. (sigh)
imorenas 2
COVID-19 is a blessing. Finally the airlines will be forced to initiate better and frequent cleaning procedures. They got away with bad hygiene too long.
Maybe somebody can explain this to me: at 30k the air is very pure, why filter it?
Or is because they recirculate the much more fuel would be used if they do not recirculate, and simply bring in clean air to begin with.
I’ve been wondering about something similar. The recirculating fans save (depending on the aircraft) if I remember right something like 80 pounds of fuel an hour or 12 gallons. Seems like not so much v running the air once through but for the HEPA filters which are supposed to take virtually everything out ...
Jim Nasby 1
More importantly, it keeps humidity in the cabin. Compressing air from 30,000’ to 8,000’ results in some very dry air.
Highflyer1950 1
Dust storms, volcanic ash, residue from combustion, forest fires all spread around the globe by Thunderstorms & the jet stream. The air is anything but pure! Pressurization is the result of how much air you let out not how much you bring in and the contents within the aircraft...people, animals, food, body hair, skin etc all floating around until filtered out makes for some pretty unhealthy air to breathe. Plus most air is drawn off the engines bleed air system, run through an air cycle machine to cool, condition and filter before pumping into the cabin. The 787, even the old DC8 had fans which pumped outside air into the cabin at high rates/volumes although the B787 has a lower cabin altitude due to a higher pressure differential making it easier on the body.
Interesting visual for cabin air circulation. I agree that filtering the pressurized air works at less than 100%. The issue is that a percentage of cabin air is recycled. You can block the middle seat in the cabin but the left outboard and right outboard seat get the same recycled air. I read the 787 does not use engine bleed air for pressurization which saves a small percent of fuel burn. The 767 and 777 have re-circulation fans which also saves fuel.
Still, the main issue is air quality. Filters are not 100% effective. Corona may make a few round trips through the system. Operating manual for the 767 and 777 provide turning off the recirculating fans for a cabin air quality issue.

Clean air in...dirty air round trip for Corona or smoke.
rene heuscher 1
I call BS marketing that offers minimal virus protection, This is keeping mosquitoes out with a chain link fence. HEPA filters must remove: 99.97% of particles that have a size greater than or equal to 0.3 µm. Problem is corona virus is 5 nm which is 0.005 µm or 60 times less than the holes in the filter,
ken young 1
Ventilation systems would be best if fitted with ultra violet light
djames225 2
Unfortunately using industrial UV-B in an aircraft air system would produce too much ozone. If they could get UV-C to kill "nasties" at a faster rate, then it would not be so bad.
ken young 1
This would be similar to those which will eventually be installed in all public buildings.
Anyway, it's time for the people in the white lab coats to get cracking
djames225 1
Those would be UV-B..the reason being is the air is recirculated more at a faster rate, along with huge amts of fresh air intake. Ozone levels would be very very low.
Most, if not all, household air cleaners that use a UV light, use UV-C but it is because the air is not circulated as fast, and so the light can do it's job. All about the lights wavelength.
You are right thou, time for researchers to discover better air cleaning methods besides just using HEPA, for aircraft.
On “most” of their fleet. No thank you, put them on all!
jetplt 1
Boeing designed the 787 to be pressurized to a maximum cabin altitude of 6,000 feet. So if we assume a constant altitude of 43,000 (the 787's service ceiling1), we would get a maximum differential of: 6,000 ft Cabin Altitude = 9.06 psi.
kwanfam 1
Nice, but how often are the filters cleaned or replaced. Does HEPA remove SARS-CoV-2 virus as well?
darjr26 1
Find an airline mechanic, buy him or her a couple of drinks, and then ask how often do they really change out the Hepa filter. U
Larry Toler 2
TAM would kill me in ATL for filters at the last minute. I don't think they flew into Atlanta. Seems like they always had AOG's for air filters. Don't get me started on O2 generators for Boeing aircraft in China.
wtwisniewski 1
We do need to rethink crowding of people - not just in airoplanes (think workplaces, public transportation, waiting lines, elevators, etc.). Every person needs to be separated by a barrier from the rest. A physical 'fume hood' per passenger will probably take up the least room. Functional barriers such as air curtains do work but consume more volume and require huge air flows.
Joao Ponces 0
Only NOW???? It's been done here in Japan for ages....
Highflyer1950 -2
If you mean 30 years ago as being now?


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