Written by By Ben Young, CNN
The stakes have never been higher for the International Civil Aviation Organization’s Battle of the Skies.
Under a plan being proposed by the United Nations aviation body, all passengers and aircraft involved in regular flights over oceans could face introduction of the combustible plastic particle, COVID.
It would mean replacing clear masks, which contain a layer of chemicals, known as perfluorinated compounds (PFOS), with long-sleeved versions without PFOS.
The report proposes a two-year pilot scheme in a handful of countries, such as India, Singapore and Malaysia, with the aim of having COVID on a more widespread scale by 2025.
The plan will now go on to the ICAO’s ICAO Assembly of governments in Montreal later this year, but campaigners remain concerned that labelling in-flight clothing as ‘thermally neutral’ doesn’t necessarily allow for effective choices.
Several European countries have already withdrawn international accreditation of clear masks after it emerged that many were hiding the presence of perfluorinated compounds in food and drinks, such as creams and shampoos.
Will Michael G. Kühsler, head of HAP International, an air traffic control company based in Switzerland, said it was inevitable that travelers would need to be trained and advised on how to adapt to the fact that they are expected to wear clear masks while airborne — but avoiding overload was the priority.
A spokesman for the Environment Agency, which is working to enhance the approach to port and air traffic control, did not offer details on how the measures might affect traveling “unsafely dressed,” explaining instead that the work was about “ensuring there is a workable system in place to deal with passengers’ needs.”
HAP, as well as several air traffic management and safety bodies, has submitted an early warning system for COVID and PFOS, which has not yet received a final go-ahead from the ICAO.
HAP employs more than 2,400 air traffic controllers at its main Swiss Air Traffic Control centers, which also have a number of backup transmission radar units in Germany, France and Portugal.
Goddard Skurle, head of air traffic control and flight dynamics with HAP, said so far the company had not detected any negative effects from the PFOS removal methods, except for the loss of audio services for pilots that are linked to existing use of PFOS-free clear masks.