Air Force testing new decontamination process
A retired, ground-instructional C-130 at the Little Rock Air Force Base in Little Rock, Ark., has become part of a series of tests to determine how heat and humidity affect the decontamination process for an aircraft.
"We are using a simulant (bacillus thuringiensis) that has similar properties and reacts in the same way the actual agents would; however, here are no live agents," 2nd Lt. James Reilly, the 19th Medical Group Bioenvironmental Engineering Flight commander, said. "The simulant is in no way shape or form harmful to individuals or the environment."
The tests use bacillus thuringiensis, a commercially-available insecticide, to simulate a biological agent. Officials at the base have determined that the testing procedures are safe for the flightline and for the community of the base.
"By heating the interior of the aircraft from 150 to 170 degrees Fahrenheit in conjunction with a relative humidity at 80 to 90 percent over a period of one to five days, we will gain valuable data on how to destroy biological agents without harming the aircraft," Tim Provens, an Air Force Research Laboratory project engineer at Wright Patterson AFB, Ohio, said.
Staff members are testing to see if the "green" technology of heat and humidity can neutralize the environmentally safe and simulated biological warfare agent. The Air Force currently decontaminates aircraft with hot soapy water, which isn't practical for an aircraft's interior and has limited effects on anything that absorbs into the paint on the skin of an aircraft. Decontamination solutions that are typically used for buildings would be highly corrosive to thin aircraft panels and sensitive electronic equipment.
Effectiveness of the system will be determined by small detection papers coated with the environmentally-approved simulated agent and placed throughout the fuselage before being analyzed on site. The technology has previously been demonstrated in Orlando, Fla., on a commercial aircraft.