Clayton Judd in front of RFDS Aircraft

RFDS sources new decontaminant in battle against COVID- 19

Date published

28 Aug 2020

The Royal Flying Doctor Service (Queensland Section) (RFDS) is ensuring patient and staff safety during the pandemic through use of a newly sourced aircraft decontaminant.

While the Service is well equipped to transfer infectious patients, COVID-19 presented an unprecedented challenge – the sourcing of a chemical agent which was strong enough to kill the coronavirus, but not harmful to passengers or the aircraft’s avionics.

RFDS (Queensland Section) State Manager Operations Charlton Campbell said the obstacle was further complicated by the timeline required for aircraft decontamination following transfer of a suspected COVID-19 case.

Clayton Judd in front of RFDS Aircraft

“Our aeromedical services are delivered 24 hours a day, seven days a week. As such, our aircraft need to be available at a moment’s notice,” Mr Campbell said.

“Therefore, we had to rule out any agents containing chemical irritants which may cause inflammation or irritation to the skin, eyes or airways. We simply don’t have the luxury of time to wait an extended period for the aircraft to be ready for re-use.

“Because we are working within a confined space, we need to be especially mindful of the effect the chemical agent may have on our electronic systems as well as those travelling within the craft on its return journey.”

Mr Campbell said extensive research, followed by collaboration with RFDS colleagues in Western Australia, had led his team to Nanocyn, an agent produced by the company MicroSafe.

“This agent is non-toxic and non-corrosive so it is extremely safe for both the aircraft and future passengers. It is also effective at killing bacteria and viruses such as coronavirus within 30 seconds,” he said.

“It’s unique in the fact it replicates the bodies’ own defence mechanism against pathogens, destroying them by a purely natural physical process.

“Of great benefit to us is the fact we can spray the aircraft and have it air dry within 30 minutes. This means that by the time our nurses return from transferring the suspected COVID-19 patient to hospital, the aircraft is back online.”

Vision of aircraft decontamination

Mr Campbell said all RFDS bases in Queensland had now been equipped with the agent to fog aircraft if required.“To date, the RFDS (Queensland Section) has transported 35 patients with COVID-19 precautions, while more than 1,100 confirmed or suspected COVID-19 patients have been transported around Australia,” he said.

“Despite the challenging circumstances, the RFDS will continue to provide vital emergency medical and primary healthcare services for regional, rural and remote Australians. The Flying Doctor will continue to be there, as we have been for 92 years, providing life-saving care to those who need it most.”