Protective coating specialist Permagard has debuted a new product to combat the increasingly worrisome issue of bed bugs on aircraft. The company’s Bed Bug Killer product provides an alternative to costly and time-consuming traditional treatments that require grounding of aircraft, such as heat treatment or spraying of pyrethroid-based chemicals, which bed bugs have become increasingly resistant to.
“Bed bugs are seen as a stigma, meaning dirty beds, linen and aircraft. This is not a good image for airlines promoting the latest expensive sleeper seats,” says Graham McIntosh, business development manager for Permagard Aviation. McIntosh says there have been recent court cases in the U.S. where accommodation providers have been successfully sued over bed bug infestations, which makes it important for airlines to be proactive about the issue rather than waiting until something happens. “A duty of care to try and prevent it is as important as compensating those affected. This is both true for passengers as well as staff who are protected by labor laws around the world, where the employer has to provide a safe work environment,” he adds.
Bed Bug Killer, which Permagard first promoted at MRO Asia-Pacific earlier this month, uses silica gel dust to kill bed bugs via dehydration rather than poisoning them with chemicals. Although amorphous silica gel is already used in areas such as agriculture, hospitals and sewage systems to control target pests, Permagard says this is the first approved usage within aviation. The product has been approved by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (similar to the FDA in the U.S.) and tested to Boeing and Airbus standards, according to the company.
“Until now, no one has figured out how to get [amorphous silica gel] aviation approved,” says McIntosh. “We worked with our CASA Part 21 engineers and a leading world-renowned entomologist for bed bugs to design a testing and application regime that would allow it to be used on aircraft for preventing bed bug infestations.”
Bed Bug Killer is applied by finely dusting the product into areas of the cabin, seats and crew rest areas where bed bugs are known to hide. According to Permagard, the product can be applied in approximately one to two hours and there is no need to cover other areas of the cabin before application. McIntosh says the frequency of inspection and reapplication depends on the airline and its cleaning and bedding change program. The company’s first fleet-wide program will start at eight-week intervals and McIntosh says Permagard will adjust as needed to suit the environment.
Permagard is currently working with an Australian airline to protect its Boeing 777 aircraft from potential infestations and hopes to have an agreement in place in the next few weeks. McIntosh says that after the product’s debut at MRO-Asia Pacific, numerous other southeast Asian airlines have also shown interest in how Bed Bug Killer can be implemented on their aircraft.
A 200g (just over 7oz.) bottle of Bed Bug Killer, which can treat a typical B777’s crew rest areas and sleeper seats, will retail for around $95 plus shipping and taxes. According to McIntosh, the company’s goal is to have the product applied no more frequently than every eight weeks, which will keep an airline’s investment to below $1,000 per aircraft per year.