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Cleaner skies: Boeing develops 'self-cleaning' airplane bathrooms


Boeing Co. has developed a new product to tackle a basic fear for flying germophobes: airliner lavatories that turn into virtual petri dishes during long-range trips. The U.S. planemaker says its engineers and designers have created self-cleaning toilets that use ultraviolet light to kill 99.99 per cent of germs, disinfecting all surfaces after every use in just three seconds. Boeing’s rival, Airbus Group SE, is working on a similar concept. “We’re trying to alleviate the anxiety we all face when using a restroom that gets a workout during a flight,” Jeanne Yu, director of environmental performance for Boeing’s commercial airplanes division, said in a statement.

The concept offers a new twist on the old aviator saying, “If it ain’t Boeing, I ain’t going,” aviation consultant Robert Mann said by e-mail. “Boeing should ground-test these in big- city public facilities to develop some street cred,” he said. Airbus is working on its own improvements for jetliner bathrooms, according to Ingo Wuggetzer, the European company’s vice president of marketing. “Airbus is developing ‘touchless’ technologies for our future lavs, and we will also include ‘anti-bacterial’ surfaces as an upcoming lav feature,” Wuggetzer said. “Moreover, as well as improving lav hygiene, the ambiance and overall freshness will be noticeably enhanced. So, overall, Airbus is set to significantly raise the bar on the passengers’ experience of using an in-flight lav.”

Boeing’s lavatory prototype uses a type of ultraviolet light, different from the rays in tanning beds, that doesn’t harm humans. Activated only when the airliner toilet isn’t in use, the lights flood touch surfaces such as the toilet seat, sink and counter top.

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