How Clean is the Air Onboard a Private Jet?


Just like in any enclosed space, the air quality onboard an aircraft can be cause for concern to some travelers, especially in a COVID-infested world.

Even though private jets do not have as many passengers on board as commercial airlines and are thus less crowded, air quality is still an interesting safety topic worth addressing.

Many modern private jets have installed High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters. They can do absolute wonders, as we will discuss below.

In addition, there are also classes of light aircraft (within private jets) where the air is even cleaner since fresh air is continuously being drawn from the outside.

Air Exchanges Using HEPA Filters

Large cabin, medium and even certain light private jets are often equipped with HEPA filters. This is not a technology developed exclusively for aviation but is utilized widely.

HEPA filters create a “clean room” air exchange, similar to a hospital operating theater. The entire air inside the passenger cabin of a private jet is fully swapped out every few minutes (usually 2 to 3 minutes).

The is made possible through air exchange technology. When the plane is airborne, 60% of the air is brought in from outside and the other 40% is filtered through the system. Air is continuously being brought in piped in from the ceiling and sucked out through vents next to or below the seats.

This interesting United Airlines video explains the process onboard commercial airliners:

While the video above refers to what is happening on a big commercial carrier, a similar or better result is seen for private jets equipped with HEPA filters. Once the system is on, there is only a 10-15% humidity and a complete lack of nutrition for microorganisms, which means they have a very low chance of survival.

The end result is that private jet cabins equipped with HEPA filters are far cleaner than your own living room, or a crowded restaurant, bar, shopping mall or railway station.

Great News for the COVID Age

NASA has conducted extensive research into the topic of onboard air quality and has concluded that HEPA filters will block and/or absorb 99.97% of all airborne particles over 0.3 microns in size. This means that not only are passengers in a private jet protected from a lot of other possible infections, most COVID germs are taken care of as well.

However, the above should not be taken for granted at all times. Here’s why.

There can Still be Concerns About Air Quality

There are a number of circumstances where the quality of the air circulating in the cabin may not necessarily live up to the lofty standards of a “clean room”:

  1. While most modern aircraft, including private jets, do come equipped with HEPA filters, older models may not. Luckily, you can rely on our expertise to select the most-suited and safest aircraft for your mission.
  2. The filters do need to be changed regularly, otherwise, holes and/or other defects could create a situation where the system does not operate at full efficiency.
  3. For maximum effectiveness, the plane needs to be airborne. When it's sitting on the ground or taxiing, the filters are not operating at peak efficiency. This means that there is a greater chance of infections and other airborne infestations while on the ground.

However, the above scenarios do not pose as much of a problem onboard private jets as they do on commercial airliners, mostly because the aircraft is much less crowded. We can safely say that private jets with HEPA filtration systems provide the safest and cleanest possible air onboard an aircraft today.

Air Exchanges on Very Light Private Jets

There are a class of very light jets, such as the Citation Mustang, which use a different air exchange system that is instantaneous – as opposed to the three minutes for larger planes that can use HEPA filters to compensate.

Although quite a technical explanation, it's still interesting to note the differences in used air filtration technology.

These very light private jets use hot engine bleed air (compressed air taken from the engine turbines), that is cooled down by heat exchangers and then released into the cabin after being regulated by a valve.

There are outflow valves that regulate the flow of air out of the cabins. These are always kept partially open, which in turn means that there is always fresh air circulating through the cabin. In such a case, filtration is not necessary since the system maintains low humidity and there is no nutrition for microbes in the cabin environment.

Turboprops are often operated using the same system as very light jets.

Who Oversees the Clean Air Standards?

There are several international bodies and consortia that work in tandem to maintain air quality and safety standards. These include:

  • The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)
  • The International Air Transport Association (IATA)
  • The World Health Organization (WHO), whose role has gained more prominence during the COVID era, and
  • Various country governments.

The standards are maintained and taken very seriously. If you have questions, feel free to ask your broker and they will be able to provide you with all the details.

Private Jets Do Better than Commercial Airlines

While employing equivalent filters, private jets will usually do better than commercial airlines in terms of maintaining clean air quality. There are a number of reasons for this.

  1. Private jets carry significantly fewer passengers than commercial airlines, and the passengers may not have to travel through the main lobbies and gates of an airport. This reduces exposure to other people in terms of spreading germs. (Avoiding crowded terminals is one of the many advantages of private jet travel)
  2. Commercial airlines usually turn around quickly from a gate, plus have a large number of surfaces to clean and disinfect. Private jets, on the other hand, have smaller cabin areas in many cases, and usually spend more time on the ground between trips. Therefore, it is easier to maintain a clean environment aboard private jets.
  3. Private jets can also minimize the risk of bad air quality is by keeping the air exchange and filtration system on even while the plane is sitting on the ground or taxiing. This is easier to do with lighter aircraft as opposed to a large passenger jet.

Take Precautions

Despite all the technology that goes into maintaining the clean air standards on private jets, passengers should take all adequate precautions, especially when airborne infestations are a major issue on a global basis.

There are points of time, when walking through an airport, taxiing or idling on the ground, or sitting in proximity with fellow passengers who may be carrying a virus or bacteria – when discretion is definitely the better part of valor. Wearing masks and/or sanitizers is a must.

Luckily, onboard a private jet there won't be any other passenger besides your party, so you can rest assured the chances of in-flight infections are almost nil, especially compared to commercial airliners with some 200 passengers sitting in very close proximity. And as you will fly between smaller general aviation terminals, you also won't have to worry about crowded airport terminals.

The Bottom Line

In summary, the air you breathe aboard the average private jet is as good as (if not better than) breathing in a sterile hospital setting. The major reason for this is that there is always fresh air being circulated through the cabin in a pressurized environment.

In addition, the quality of the work that is done to keep up with good air quality and safety standards by every stakeholder involved in private jet travel ensures that the air onboard is as safe and clean as possible.

Do you have any questions, comments or information about private jet air quality? Do not hesitate to ask our team of experienced brokers, they will happily answer any questions you may have regarding your safety and health on board.

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