Pexco Aerospace has acquired manufacturing rights to develop Teague’s AirShield cabin airflow system from concept to production-readiness. Teague, the Seattle-based design company, first revealed the design in 2020 in response to travel concerns during the Covid-19 pandemic, as a way to create individual ‘breathing zones’ that maximise the performance of aircraft HEPA filtration systems. Pexco saw potential in the design and has been further developing AirShield into an airworthy air management system, which it expects to be certified by the FAA by July 2022.
The announcement is timely, as aircraft cabins are fast returning to full capacity and in many regions of the world passengers are no longer mandated to wear face masks onboard. While some welcome the return of the ‘old normal’ in flying, some others are anxious about the removal of Covid measures. While the HVAC systems onboard commercial aircraft are already effective, AirShield is intended to offer an additional layer of protection from airborne germs entering a passenger’s personal space.
A particularly clever feature of the design is that, because AirShield does not impact passengers entering or exiting from their seats and it is not located in the head-strike zone, there is no need for an expensive seat re-certification process. Furthermore, the lightweight AirShields can be easily installed over the top of existing overhead passenger air vents, without the need for airframe modifications or special tools. The three-piece clip-together assembly enables a full cabin installation to be completed during overnight aircraft maintenance.
The device works in harmony with the existing HEPA filtration systems in the aircraft cabin to personalise passenger airflow, re-directing purified air around and in-between each passenger to create protective air barriers. The units are also designed to create uniform airflow throughout the cabin, minimising the sharing of exhaled air between passengers and increasing the rate at which spent air is removed. The main application would be the high-density economy-class cabin, in which passengers sit very close to each other.
While the initial inspiration for the design was to increase passenger confidence in the safety of air travel during the pandemic, Teague believes it has benefits beyond Covid concerns, as it can help restrict the spread of any virus in the cabin, and indeed help contain odours.
Pexco says it has conducted rigorous testing of the device, in partnership with several leading airlines, the results of which have shown it to be effective in reducing the spread of airborne particles in the cabin. The tests included both both computational fluid dynamics (CFD) modelling, and on-wing tests on board B737 and A320 aircraft. For the latter, any mitigating factors that could affect the results were removed, with the B737 and A320 economy-class cabins at maximum capacity and with no passengers wearing face masks. Pexco says the tests showed that AirShield technology reduced the level of air particles shared between neighbouring passengers by 76%.
The company also says that Airshield doubles the rate at which particles are expelled from the cabin and replaced by freshly purified air, while being a claimed 50% quieter than standard air vents. While AirShield reshapes the airflow from the vents, it does not alter the temperature of the cabin or the volume of air supplied beyond that of a traditional air vent.
Jon Page, President of Pexco Aerospace, comments: “With mask wearing being phased out, it is the ‘virtual social distance’ the industry needs, providing every passenger with what they want most – a premium and personalised inflight experience.”
AirShield is a finalist in the Crystal Cabin Awards 2022, the winners of which will be announced on 14th June during a gala dinner at Aircraft Interiors Expo.