Boeing engineers develop purple power to kill COVID-19

February 12, 2021
UV THREE: (From left) Boeing engineers Teresa King, Kevin Callahan and Jamie Childress with the UV wand at Boeing’s Concept Center in Everett, Washington. They led a team that turned a concept into a device that could change the way airplanes are sanitized. PHOTO: MARIAN LOCKHART

Boeing engineers have developed purple power to kill any traces of COVID-19 on aircraft.

The amazing story is told in the company’s latest issue of Boeing IQ.

Here are the first few paragraphs:

“If they could, pathogens would run and hide at the sight of the purple glow emanating from the Boeing-developed ultraviolet wand. Rapidly yet carefully created by a dedicated team to destroy germs on the inside of airplanes, the UV wand could become standard operating equipment. Teresa KingJamie Childress and Kevin Callahan were on the front lines of this innovation. They take us inside Boeing’s Concept Center to reveal what they did and how they did it.

IQ: Begin at the beginning. Trace the genesis of the UV wand.
The story is a bit like a rock band that seems to arrive on the scene from nowhere, only for new fans to discover the band has been touring small venues for years. The UV wand was first hatched in my brain way back in 2014 when I first found out 222 nm (nanometer) UV light killed pathogens and is safe for human exposure. Back then the data for both those claims were slim but seemed compelling all the same.

At the time, I was primarily working on military projects, so my natural inclination was to apply this technology in that space. I envisioned a “disinfection Swiss Army knife” that could safely sanitize anything from pots and pans to combat wounds.

IQ: How did the idea move to the next level?
An idea is just an idea until it has a customer. My first customer was not the military. It was Teresa King. As the leader of Boeing’s Clean Cabin Program, she immediately grasped the value of 222 nm UV for commercial aircraft.

Under Teresa’s leadership, we had developed the UV lavatory, which features several clean technologies, including 222 nm UV disinfection. When COVID-19 hit, Teresa informed her management about the wand I was developing.



  1. This is hardly a new idea - local bus companies here in Oz were talking about using UV to kill off Sars-Cov-2 back in July'20 - the problem is that UV is line-of-sight, so anywhere in the shadow of the UV light would not have any disinfecting affect. The other issue is how often they use the UV light to 'clean' the aircraft - it would need to be after every flight which would significantly strain turnaround times for most airlines. If it only happens once per week or per day, any affect to slow the spread would not be worthwhile... because as soon as the UV is not there, the virus has the potential to stay there until the next cleaning - and on some routes, that might mean 6-8 flights (= multiple new pax infected on each flight after the initial contagious pax) for a single day... The bus companies abandoned the idea of using UV for these two reasons...
  2. Agreed: UVC is only line of sight and takes time to do properly. It does not clean anything (cleaning is not the same as disinfecting). Cleaning is still needed first: UVC wiill not kill viruses if there is dirt including food scraps, sweat etc on a surface or if it is in the fabric of a seat. UVC is higher energy than UVA and UVB (which we use sunscreen toprotect us from skin cancer) so more dangerous. Someone walking through a cabin waving a wand will not reassure me. Proper cleaning is needed between every flight.