Posted by: Footler PJ7 NOV 2012
Imperial Airways was formed in 1924 to speed the movement of passengers and mail around the British Empire. Operating flying boats as well as land-based aircraft, the company served routes to South Africa, India and the Far East. Local partnerships linked the UK with Australia and New Zealand. Imperial was merged into the British Overseas Airways Corporation in 1939.
Imperial Airways took seriously the risk of insects, such as the Anopheles mosquito, spreading from the equatorial regions by hitching a lift in its aircraft. Colonel F. P. Mackie, the firm’s medical director, and H. S. Crabtree of its experimental production section developed a lightweight, electrically powered device, the Phantomyst Vaporizer. It contained pyrethrum insecticides distilled from the dried flower heads of Chrysanthemum cinerariifolium and C coccineum, which were specially cultivated for this purpose.
In a demonstration in 1938 Mackie and Crabtree showed that the system killed mosquitos within eight minutes but was “not in the least unpleasant to passengers and crew” and furthermore did not “harm the aircraft in any respect”. Phantomysts were soon installed on those Imperial aircraft operating on tropical routes.
Since then, international airlines have used a variety of insecticides such as pyrethroids, DDT, thiocyanate, nicotine, rotenone or derris resin and phenothiazine to destroy disease-carrying insects accidentally introduced into plane cabins. Nowadays the disinfection of aircraft is a public health measure controlled by international health regulations. The insecticides used (usually pyrethroids) are specified by the World Health Organization and may be residual formulations for regular application to cabin interiors or quick-acting products which can be sprayed over passengers as well.