An essential part of what I do is traveling, specifically flying. I fly domestically in the US to meet customers for Sicilian Reserve and abroad to Sicily to meet with artisans whom I write about on Sleevehead. Now the question of course is whether one can fly safely in the absence of a vaccine.

My last trip to Sicily occurred almost six months ago. I’m not sure when exactly I will be flying again but I think it is coming soon, even without a COVID-19 vaccine or treatment at the moment.

The reason is that we now know more about how the virus is transmitted.

As of late July 2020, this video is probably the most informed advice I’ve seen regarding safe travel at least until a vaccine or effective treatment is found.

And I’ve reached largely the same conclusion to the point that I am personally comfortable flying again.

If you are in good health, the risk of flying is pretty low assuming you take the following precautions:

(1) You wear a N95 (or better) mask. This is why I funded the Breathe99 mask on Kickstarter, which is a hybrid between an N95 mask and the elastomeric respirator mask shown in the video. It’s even better than an N95, equal to an N99 mask filtering out 99% of particles as small as 0.1 microns, and more comfortable. Once I receive and test this respirator, I will feel comfortable flying both short and long-haul flights because it minimizes viral load and exposure to effectively nil.

(2) You protect your eyes from respiratory droplets. If you wear safety goggles or cover your eyes with an eye mask, you should be fine even if someone is coughing nearby.

(3) You sit in a window seat and open the overhead air vents to maximum. My one remaining concern for flying was air quality during boarding and disembarking. But United Airlines, for example, is now running their HEPA filters during boarding and disembarking as well as during the flight.

The worst case scenario is an infected person sitting next to you (or behind/in front of you) constantly coughing. But even this becomes a manageable risk because of the 3 reasons above.

Shield touch tool by Adrian D’Souza

Here’s my anticipated everyday carry to minimize COVID-19 exposure while traveling:

  1. Breathe99 B2 mask. Equivalent to an N99 mask which removes 99 percent of particulates down to 0.1 microns (which includes COVID-19). I backed this on Kickstarter and hope to receive my mask in mid to late August.
  2. No touch door pry tool for use on door pulls and lavatory doors. I’m currently using this no touch tool but hoping that the Shield touch tool gets funded on Kickstarter with just 4 days left in the campaign. Worth checking out.
  3. Hand sanitizer containing ideally 70 percent isopropyl alcohol. I’m planning to use the Sandstone dispenser, another Kickstarter gadget. Since it uses an airless pump, it should not leak when used inflight on airplanes.
  4. Safety goggles. Since I normally wear glasses, I would get something like these NoCry safety over-glasses.

I imagine everyone is approaching the topic of safe travel with their own criteria. How are you thinking about traveling safely these days?

1 thought on “Flying safely without a coronavirus vaccine”

  1. Juhn @ sleevehead

    Last week I received my Breathe99 B2 mask and have worn it on multiple days for several hours while walking outside in hot weather and inside buildings. I am very happy with it. Below is the review I posted on the Kickstarter campaign:

    “I think it’s important to recognize that it’s virtually impossible for a single mask design to conform closely to all possible human face shapes, esp. around the nose and chin. It’s equally important to recognize that a mask that works well for 80-90% of facial geometries at an N99-equivalent level of protection is a huge achievement. So congratulations to the Breathe99 team.

    The B2 mask is an excellent fit for me with no leakage around the nose or chin. I can also breathe easily without fogging my glasses. Your mileage may vary of course. But if you’re within 1 standard deviation within the range of possible face shapes, my guess is that the B2 will fit you reasonably well. Overall, the B2 is the best face mask solution I’ve found and will be part of my toolkit to fly and travel safely. Thanks and keep up the good work.”

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