If you've flown internationally for more than a few years, you probably have some experience with having to spray the aircraft before beginning descent or even having to spray the aircraft after arrival and then having to seal the cabin for ten minutes as the passengers look at you with accusing eyes. "Couldn't you have gotten us out of this, captain?" In my charter GV years we had flight attendants keep a supply of half-spent spray cans so they could spray the entry door into fooling the inspectors that the cabin had been sprayed. I'll leave the ethical questions to you. For me, I don't like having aerosols on the aircraft so I would just assume have the inspectors bring the spray and let them spray. Australia may be my favorite country on earth and it seems like a small price to pay, mate.
— James Albright
If you want to buy the spray ahead of time, I've never found a good option in the United States. The vendor of choice is Callington, based in Australia, but they are not allowed to ship to the United States. If you look around you can find vendors in Canada, the United Kingdom, and many places in Asia and the Pacific. Some FBOs keep large quantities on stock and many operators buy cases when overseas. But this isn't very wise, in my opinion. I don't think these cans have been tested under the conditions of a rapid decompression and having a case of the stuff explode at altitude would be bad news.
You might be able to fumigate the aircraft at your home base and have that count for your arrival, a process called "residual disinsection." The unknown is how do you document that so the country you are traveling to will buy off on it? You should first see if the country will allow it and how they want it documented. If they say okay, you should contact your aircraft manufacturer for procedures on how to do this correctly. Here is the Gulfstream solution: Gulfstream Aircraft Fumigation Procedures, SGER-548, 24 September 2013
There have been news reports that Italy is now requiring disinsection of all incoming aircraft, regardless of origin, in response to the Zika Virus. As of 16 Feb 2016, the NBAA says Italy is requiring a certificate of disinsection or they will spray upon arrival. Two readers provide first hand reports.
- Disinsection is permitted under international law in order to protect public health, agriculture and the environment. The World Health Organization and the International Civil Aviation Organization stipulate two approaches for aircraft disinsection--
- Spraying — spray the aircraft cabin, with an aerosolized insecticide, while passengers are on board or
- Residual — treat the aircraft's interior surfaces with a residual insecticide (residual method) while passengers are not on board.
- Australia, Residual
- Barbados, Residual
- Cook Islands, Residual
- Fiji, Residual
- Jamaica, Residual
- New Zealand, Residual
- Panama, Spraying
- Czech Republic, Areas of contagious diseases
- France, Areas of malaria, yellow fever and dengue fever
- Indonesia, Infected areas
- Mauritius, Generally, flights coming from African continent, Asia and sub regions, the Middle East and islands of the Indian Ocean, and flights coming from any other country where mosquito borne diseases are prevalent.
- South Africa, Areas of malaria or yellow fever
- Switzerland, Intertropical Africa
- United Kingdom, Malarial countries and countries with confirmed transmission of Zika
Source: Transportation.gov Aircraft Disinsection Requirements
Disinsection. The procedure whereby health measures are taken to control or kill insects present in aircraft, baggage, cargo, containers, goods and mail.
Source: ICAO Annex 9, Ch. 1, Definitions
2.23 Contracting States shall limit any routine requirement for the disinsection of aircraft cabins and flight decks with an aerosol while passengers and crews are on board, to same-aircraft operations originating in, or operating via, territories that they consider to pose a threat to their public health, agriculture or environment.
2.24 Contracting States that require disinsection of aircraft shall periodically review their requirements and modify them, as appropriate, in the light of all available evidence relating to the transmission of insects to their respective territories via aircraft.
2.25 When disinsection is required a Contracting State shall authorize or accept only those methods, whether chemical or non-chemical, and/or insecticides, which are recommended by the World Health Organization and are considered efficacious by the Contracting State.
Note.— This provision does not preclude the trial and testing of other methods for ultimate approval by the World Health Organization.
2.26 Contracting States shall ensure that their procedures for disinsection are not injurious to the health of passengers and crew and cause the minimum of discomfort to them.
2.27 Contracting States shall, upon request, provide to aircraft operators appropriate information, in plain language, for air crew and passengers, explaining the pertinent national regulation, the reasons for the requirement, and the safety of properly performed aircraft disinsection.
2.28 When disinsection has been performed in accordance with procedures recommended by the World Health Organization, the Contracting State concerned shall accept a pertinent certification on the General Declaration as provided for in Appendix 1 or, in the case of residual disinsection, the Certificate of Residual Disinsection set forth in Appendix 4.
2.29 When disinsection has been properly performed pursuant to 2.25 and a certificate as indicated in 2.28 is presented or made available to the public authorities in the country of arrival, the authorities shall normally accept that certificate and permit passengers and crew to disembark immediately from the aircraft.
2.30 Contracting States shall ensure that any insecticide or any other substance used for disinsection does not have a deleterious effect on the structure of the aircraft or its operating equipment. Flammable chemical compounds or solutions likely to damage aircraft structure, such as by corrosion, shall not be employed.
Source: ICAO Annex 9, Ch. 2, §D
- Many countries require disinsection of aircraft (to kill insects) arriving from countries where diseases that are spread by insects, such as malaria and yellow fever, occur. There have been a number of cases of malaria affecting individuals who live or work in the vicinity of airports in countries where malaria is not present, thought to be due to the escape of malaria-carrying mosquitoes transported on aircraft. Some countries, e.g. Australia and New Zealand, routinely carry out disinsection to prevent the inadvertent introduction of species that may harm their agriculture.
- Disinsection is a public health measure that is mandated by the International Health Regulations (Annex 2). It involves treatment of the interior of the aircraft with insecticides specified by WHO. The different procedures currently in use are as follows:
- treatment of the interior of the aircraft using a quick-acting insecticide spray immediately before take-off, with the passengers on board;
- treatment of the interior of the aircraft on the ground before passengers come on board, using a residual-insecticide aerosol, plus additional in-flight treatment with a quick-acting spray shortly before landing;
- regular application of a residual insecticide to all internal surfaces of the aircraft, except those in food preparation areas.
- Passengers are sometimes concerned about their exposure to insecticide sprays during air travel, and some have reported feeling unwell after spraying of aircraft for disinsection. However, WHO has found no evidence that the specified insecticide sprays are harmful to human health when used as recommended.
Source: World Health Organization
- Blocks away
A pre-flight aerosol containing an insecticide with rapid action and limited residual action is applied by ground staff to the flight deck, passenger cabin including toilet areas, open overhead and side-wall lockers, coat lockers and crew rest areas. The spray is applied before the passengers board the aircraft but not more than 1 h before the doors are closed. A 2% permethrin cis:trans (25:75) formulation is currently recommended for this application, at a target dose of 0.7 g a.i./100 m3. This requires application at 35 g of formulation per 100 m3 to various types of aircraft, with a droplet size of 10–15 μm. Preflight spraying is followed by a further in-flight spray, i.e. top-of-descent as the aircraft starts its descent to the arrival airport.
Spraying is carried out by crew members when the passengers are on board, after closure of the cabin door and before the flight takes off. An aerosol containing an insecticide for rapid action is used. The air-conditioning system should be switched off during cabin spraying. The flight deck is sprayed before the pilot boards (when no passengers are on board). The doors of overhead luggage racks should be closed only after spraying has been completed. An aerosol containing 2% D-phenothrin is currently recommended by WHO and should be applied at a rate of 35 g of formulation per 100 m3 (i.e. 0.7 g a.i./100 m3). Cargo holds should also be disinsected.
Top-of-descent spraying is carried out as the aircraft starts its descent to the arrival airport. An aerosol containing 2% D-phenothrin is currently recommended by WHO for this purpose and is applied with the air recirculation system set at from high to normal flow. The amounts applied are based on a standard spray rate of 1 g/s and 35 g of the formulation per 100 m3 (i.e. 0.7 g a.i./100 m3).
The internal surfaces of the passenger cabin and cargo hold, excluding food preparation areas, are sprayed with a compression sprayer that has a constant flow valve and flat fan nozzle according to WHO specifications. Permethrin 25:75 (cis:trans) emulsifiable concentrate is currently recommended by WHO at a target dose of 0.2 g/m2 applied at intervals not exceeding 2 months. The emulsion is applied at 10 ml/m2 to avoid run off. Residual sprays are applied by professional pest control operators and are intended for long-term residual activity on aircraft interior surfaces. In electrically sensitive areas, it may be necessary to use an aerosol instead of a compression sprayer. After treatment is completed, air-conditioning packs should be run for at least 1 h before the crew and passengers embark to clear the air of the volatile components of the spray. Areas that undergo substantial cleaning between treatments require supplementary ‘touch-up’ spraying.
Source: World Health Organization
The World Health Organization says disinsection sprays are not hazardous to your health. They have a long list of citations from various sources they say agree that disinsection sprays are harmless to your health.
I am not including those citations because I noticed several of the cited sources deleted their pages and that some of the cited sources did not mention the active ingredients in disinsection sprays, permethrin and phenothrin. It is as if they are throwing out citations hoping readers will take them at their word.
I think the WHO's reputation justifies a healthy amount of skepticism. A study by the American Journal of Industrial Medicine conducted a study of several reports of flight attendant illness over a 1-year period and concluded:
The 12 cases of pesticide illness documented in this investigation demonstrate that Residual insecticide applications can result in illness among workers exposed to the aircraft cabin environment after disinsection. The documented acute illnesses likely underestimate the magnitude of illnesses due to disinsection. The public health impact of Residual disinsection also includes other workers who pilot, clean, service, and maintain the aircraft, and the passenger population. The conditions of use (i.e., the aerosol application of a pesticide in a confined space) significantly contributed to the human health hazard of Residual disinsection.
Given the spotty work endorsed by the WHO in the last few years, I don't trust their "not hazardous" claim. But if you want to go to the countries who use disinsection, you don't have much of a choice.
Dear Code 7700,
I see you have some new info on disinsection in your “updates”. I can provide some first-hand knowledge into the requirements in Italy, as I was disinsected twice this month at Ciampino. We were required to provide a certificate with “our airport’s medical officer’s WHO stamp”. Huh? We elected to have it done on arrival at LIRA, and it wasn’t a big deal. Passengers were offloaded, we removed our bags, cleaned up the airplane (G550) and waited for the sprayer. It was done with a pump sprayer of the type you’d spray your fruit trees. He was very careful, sprayed just on the carpet, wiped up any overspray, and stayed out of the cockpit area. The airplane had to be then closed for 1.5 hours, but we just closed it up and went to the hotel. Three days later we opened up the door to start our departure day, and it really didn’t seem to have much odor, and any that lingered was quickly dispersed with the open MED and baggage door. It is recommended to run the A/C packs for at least 30 minutes before closing up for departure. Total cost was 569.80 Euros, including the certificate, which is good for 8 weeks.
Dear Code 7700,
We had a recent trip into Milan, Italy – LIML. Here’s what we experienced concerning the “Residual Disinsection” requirement.
In Geneva, after the pax left and we were ready to leave for the hotel (one RON), two men came to do the spraying. Actually, one held a clipboard outside, while the other donned a white jump suit and began to spray the cabin and baggage compartment with a small aerosol can of “FLYMED AIRCRAFT”. Then the aircraft was closed up and we departed. I believe the plane must stay closed up for one hour. I asked for a certificate of the spraying, but I was informed that it would have to be sent to our home operations. The certificate arrived about 10 days later. The fee was billed through our handling agent, Universal. That charge was about $400 US.
Get this: All aircraft coming from ANY country must be sprayed or have been sprayed within the last 8 weeks. This includes Italy. Thus, if you’re up in Rome and were OK at that time, but them fly to Milan and your eight weeks has expired, you must get sprayed again. I have no idea what would be the protocol if after landing in Milan, we then went to Rome and had no certificate.
BTW, we removed all food items, even packaged goods such as peanuts, etc.
Upon departure day, we opened the aircraft (it had been about 18 hours shut up) and the smell of the insecticide was very strong. It caused me to cough a lot. The aircraft must be aired out for at least 30 minutes, but I’d recommend one hour.
Name withheld by request
ICAO Annex 9, Facilitation, International Standards and Recommended Practicds, Fifteenth Edition, October 2017
"Pesticide Illness Among Flight Attendants Due to Aircraft Disinsection," American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 50:345-356, 2007
[Australia and New Zealand] http://www.agriculture.gov.au/biosecurity/avm/aircraft/disinsection/procedures/spray-rates-listing#32-small-jets- regional-and-private-aircraft
Gulfstream Aircraft Fumigation Procedures, SGER-548, 24 September 2013
Transportation.gov Aircraft Disinsection Requirements [https://www.transportation.gov/office-policy/aviation-policy/aircraft-disinsection-requirements]
World Health Organization / Aircraft Disinsection [http://www.who.int/ith/mode_of_travel/aircraft_disinsection/en/]
World Health Organization Equipment for vector control specification guidelines, 2010
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