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Interenvironmental Transfer of Microorganisms on the Exterior Surfaces of Jet Aircraft

  • Frederic K. Pfaender
  • Frank E. Swatek
Publication Date
Aug 01, 1970
  • Mathematics


The likelihood of microorganisms being transferred to new environments by jet aircraft was investigated. Initial random sampling of the aircraft surface revealed the presence of microorganisms in varying numbers on different aerodynamic surfaces. Bacteria of the genus Bacillus were the most common isolates, comprising approximately one-third of the total organisms found. The most frequently isolated fungi were Cladosporium, Alternaria, Penicillium, and several yeasts. Sampling of surfaces before and immediately after a flight demonstrated that microorganisms were collected during flight in areas protected from the airstream and lost in those areas directly exposed to it. These experiments also showed that the majority of the organisms contaminating the aircraft were acquired from the air at ground level. The placement of microorganisms on the aircraft surface before a flight and determination of their survival after flight indicated that the test organisms were most likely to be transported in the areas protected from the airstream. The organisms showing the best chance of being transferred seem to be the sporeforming bacteria, arthrospore-forming fungi, and some yeasts. All phases of this work showed that microorganisms could be carried by jet aircraft to environments they could not reach by natural means of dispersal.

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