Aerosol tracer testing in Boeing 767 and 777 aircraft to simulate exposure potential of infectious aerosol such as SARS-CoV-2

Sean M. Kinahan, David B. Silcott, Blake E. Silcott, Ryan M. Silcott, Peter J. Silcott, Braden J. Silcott, Steven L. Distelhorst, Vicki L. Herrera, Danielle N. Rivera, Kevin K. Crown, Gabriel A. Lucero, Joshua L. Santarpia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


The COVID-19 pandemic has reintroduced questions regarding the potential risk of SARS-CoV-2 exposure amongst passengers on an aircraft. Quantifying risk with computational fluid dynamics models or contact tracing methods alone is challenging, as experimental results for inflight biological aerosols is lacking. Using fluorescent aerosol tracers and real time optical sensors, coupled with DNA-tagged tracers for aerosol deposition, we executed ground and inflight testing on Boeing 767 and 777 airframes. Analysis here represents tracer particles released from a simulated infected passenger, in multiple rows and seats, to determine the exposure risk via penetration into breathing zones in that row and numerous rows ahead and behind the index case. We present here conclusions from 118 releases of fluorescent tracer particles, with 40+ Instantaneous Biological Analyzer and Collector sensors placed in passenger breathing zones for real-time measurement of simulated virus particle penetration. Results from both airframes showed a minimum reduction of 99.54% of 1 μm aerosols from the index source to the breathing zone of a typical passenger seated directly next to the source. An average 99.97 to 99.98% reduction was measured for the breathing zones tested in the 767 and 777, respectively. Contamination of surfaces from aerosol sources was minimal, and DNA-tagged 3 μm tracer aerosol collection techniques agreed with fluorescent methodologies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0246916
JournalPloS one
Issue number12 December
StatePublished - Dec 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


Dive into the research topics of 'Aerosol tracer testing in Boeing 767 and 777 aircraft to simulate exposure potential of infectious aerosol such as SARS-CoV-2'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this