Crowded airplaneWe wrote about airline air quality back in July noting that rare cabin fume events can cause real issues for crew and passengers.  However, the more important part of that post was the discussion of the low quality of cabin air on all flights and what a passenger can do to help to minimize the effects of this.

It turns out that help is on the way in the form of three relatively new developments.  We first read about them  in The Economist back in September.

The first development is an active air management system built by Quest International (UK) Ltd.  According to their site it is certified for the Boeing 757 and two other airframes.  While HEPA filters can remove most particles, the Quest system claims to eradicate all viruses, bacteria, anthrax and other pathogens.  It also is cost-effective and reduces power consumption.

The second development is the trend towards using more carbon fiber in the airplanes’ fuselages.  This will allow for greater air pressure in the cabin as well as higher levels of humidity.  Fear of corrosion is one of the reasons cabin air is currently kept so dry.  As noted in our earlier post, this contributes to many problems for passengers.

The third development (for some jet makers) will be a switch back to using electrical generators to pressurize the cabin rather than using air bled from the jet engines.  This latter method created a trade-off for the airlines between air quality and fuel efficiency.  Going back to using electrical generators, as was done in the days of piston engines, will eliminate this trade-off and should result in noticeably better air quality.  The much-anticipated, and delayed* 787 Dreamliner will be the first plane for Boeing with this new feature.  Their web site even has a video titled “Feel Better.”

All in all, these developments should eliminate one of the most common complaints of flying.  Even though there are long security lines, cramped seats and woefully inadequate overhead bins (actually, it sounds like the 787 has improved these last two problems as well),  at least we may feel better when we land.

*Just in the news today, the Wall Street Journal had a detailed article about the past and current problems that Boeing’s commitment to composites has wrought.  It sounds like they are still hopeful to get its maiden flight in by December.


About The Author

Andrew Orr, Jr. serves as a Special Projects Director. Andy is responsible for taking the product development lead for certain large products being launched, including HTH Mobile and HTH Appointment Scheduling. Andy has an extensive entrepreneurial and technical background. He has served as HTH IT Director in the past as well as president of a number of entrepreneurial businesses. Andy earned his Master of Business Administration from the Darden School at the University of Virginia and his Bachelor of Science degree from Yale University.


  1. Great blog to read thanks.

  2. Nice post, great service. However, the filters are useless if the air conditioning is not running. Air conditioning is powered by airplane engines when a plane is in flight, but when the plane is on the ground, it takes auxiliary power to keep it going.

    • Thanks for the comment.

      I did a little follow up research, and at least as implemented on one airliner, the AirManager system from Quest seems to overcome these limitations found in older filter-based systems. From a September press release,

      The power requirement is negligible at only 9 milliamps…. Power is scaled up by a transformer which itself only draws 3.7 watts. If for some reason the power goes off and the unit stops functioning, the HAF filter is there as a redundancy so the cabin air will remain filtered.

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