The positive coronavirus test for a high-profile Air Force One passenger raises the possibility that has concerned aviation experts for months: that the virus can easily spread inside a confined aircraft cabin.
Experts fear the infection potentially puts at risk hundreds of people who travel on, operate and maintain “the flying White House” — threatening not only a highly recognizable icon of America, but also the smooth operation of a key national security tool used to evacuate the president in a crisis.
Administration officials said Friday that presidential senior adviser Hope Hicks was showing coronavirus symptoms while she flew on the world’s most famous jet earlier this week, raising the concern her infection could be linked to the infections of President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump.
Experts have cautioned that during the pandemic, the unique air flow dynamics in the confined cabin of a jetliner — even one as large as the Boeing 747-200, known in the military as a VC-25 — could put unmasked passengers at a risk of catching the deadly virus.
Administration officials said Friday that Hicks began displaying symptoms on the flight back from the President’s Wednesday rally in Minnesota and was isolated in a separate cabin. She was seen deplaning Air Force One from a rear set of steps not typically used by the President.
“Social distancing is much easier on Air Force One than any commercial airliner,” said Professor Yan Chen of Purdue University, a researcher who studies the airborne spread of coronavirus inside