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EASA advises carriers to switch off recirculation fans

Europe’s safety regulator is advising commercial aircraft operators to adopt new procedures to switch off air-conditioning system recirculation fans regularly, as part of measures to limit the risk of coronavirus contagion.

Supplementary procedures to turn off the fans periodically would “accelerate cabin air exchange”, says the European Union Aviation Safety Agency.

Its advisory is part of a series of operational recommendations to operators of passenger and cargo aircraft in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Carriers should provide a sufficient supply of surgical-standard face-masks for the intended operation, and these should be worn at all times by crew members having direct contact with passengers or non-crew individuals – and be replaced every 4h.

Hand disinfectants should be provided in lavatories on board, with crews informed that frequent hand-washing is the “preferred and most efficient” preventative measure to limit transmission, says EASA, although it acknowledges that this might be restricted by water-tank capacity – in which case single-use gloves should be employed.

Airlines should consider spacing passengers throughout the cabin – avoiding centre seats in triple-seat blocks – as far as weight-and-balance conditions permit, or encourage use of passenger face-masks.

They should also collaborate with health authorities by encouraging crews to identify passengers showing signs of respiratory infection, collecting passenger data if necessary – particularly from those in the same cabin section – and supporting passenger-tracing and epidemiological investigation measures if the presence of coronavirus on a flight is confirmed.

“Aircraft operators, irrespective of area of aircraft operation, should limit the access to the flightcrew compartment of crew members other than flightcrew to the minimum necessary, subject to the operator’s procedures,” adds EASA.

“Other personnel, including ground handling and medical personnel, if not necessary for the completion of their task, should not board the aircraft and should make use of electronic documents wherever possible.”

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