UPDATED: Original publish date: September 21, 2019.
As the topic of cabin air quality has garnered more and more attention over the years, it is becoming essential for airlines and operators to be aware of their options.
Advancements in aircraft cabin air filtration have come a long way since it was introduced in the 1980s. Long gone are the "smoking on the plane" days, and transient or nuisance odours can now insight anything from passenger complaints to litigious claims from the flight crew.
Much can be done, though, by upgrading an aircraft's filters. In this article, we will look at the various types of filtration that are available on the market.
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According to a briefing paper issued by IATA, HEPA (or True-HEPA) is classified as being able to filter out 99.97% of all harmful or odour-inducing particulates 0.3 microns in size.
These are essentially commercial HEPA knock-offs which don't adhere to the same efficiency standards–with efficiency ratings as low at 80%, in some cases.
In our research, we were unable to find any aviation aftermarket filters with the classification of HEPA-Type. This does not mean that they do not exist, and operators should be aware that HEPA-Type filters do not meet aviation standards.
HPAC (Highly Activated Carbon Filters)
Where HEPA filters may come up short is in their ability to filter out noxious odours, activated carbon fills in the gaps. Activated Carbon Filters function by increasing the surface area of a base carbon filter–essentially creating additional pores within its carbon structure. Contaminants adhere to these "pores" and lock them in the filter.
"Activated carbon has been proven to be the most economically efficient means of removing odours from the air. Anything in the cabin that emits an odour can contribute to cabin odours in the recirculated air," says John Vinson, Pall Product Manager, Americas at Satair.
Pall PUREair A-CAF
Pall Corporation, the global leader of advanced filtration, separation and purification technologies–and the brand responsible for first introducing medical-grade HEPA filters into the aviation industry–has developed a proprietary filter technology called A-CAF (Advanced Cabin Air Filters).
A-CAF filters combine True-HEPA filtration - to remove microbial, bacterial and viral contaminants. The technology, in use, has been said to improve cabin air quality by 30%.
The A-CAF product lines are FAA-PMA approved and can replace standard HEPA filters in both Airbus and Boeing models.