You know the saying. Don’t judge a book by its cover. Well, for your aircraft, that’s not true. If it’s dirty they’ll laugh and say goodbye birdie. Remember that.
On the exterior, dirt will hide in cracks, working rivets and damaged areas. It looks bad. Your interior is no different. If there’s junk everywhere, broken tray tables, dirty seats, messy lavatories, it represents your operation.
It doesn’t take a huge effort to keep your aircraft clean. Especially if you compare the opportunity cost of how your passengers view you. Your aircraft and its appearance represents you and your operation. It’s the asset that makes you money. A clean aircraft will be a profitable aircraft.
So, get your aircraft consumables and start cleaning...
How to have a spotless aircraft exterior
Start with the dry wash. Its simple and there’s less to worry about.
When you perform a wet wash, you have to be cautious. Avoid using all pressure washers or hoses. They’ll force water info surfaces and seals and cause damage. You’ll also need to pay attention to areas where water can enter pitot or static ports. This will affect the instruments and air data computers.
You’ll have very unhappy mechanics, pilots and let’s hope the engineers don’t get involved. Even worse, you delay your flight and passengers go crazy on social media. It’s all a real concern, so be cautious.
If that doesn’t stop you from a wet wash, this might. You’ll then need to capture the drain water to make sure you’re not violating any environmental regulations. We get enough heat from environmentalists and chemtrail theorists [palm to forehead].
The dry wash method cleans and shines in a single process. Get yourself a few buffing sticks and begin rubbing off the bugs, tar and oil. To really kick in the cleaning, use Extreme Simple Clean, which is aluminum safe. Once you’ve got the outside prepped and ready, it’s time to protect the paint with a high quality polymer sealant. Polymer sealants last longer and provide a more robust barrier from bugs and sap.
The dry clean takes a little more time and muscle, but it’s a great way to protect your asset.
After the dry wash, you’ll want to get your hands even dirtier. Mike Gamauf says…
"Cleaning aircraft components such as engines, reversers and actuators takes special care and caution. Carbon and soot from unburned fuel, oil and lubricants often stain the part and make cleaning a real chore. Industrial cleaners and solvents may seem to provide an attractive way to speed the cleaning process, but you need to check with the component manufacturer to determine which cleaners are acceptable because unapproved materials can cause corrosion pitting and lead to cracks. For beauty shields made from stainless or chrome, you need to use cleaners that will not leave residue that will discolor with heat, or roughly abrade the polished metal finish, leaving it dull and gray.”
Once the airframe is looking like new, you’ll make your way to the windows. Cockpit windows get “assaulted” by bugs and bake in the sun says Mike. The windows are very easy to damage from scratches and ammonia based cleaners. And, they’re not cheap.
To give all your aircraft plexiglass a nice shine, Jeff Simon says to just use some water and your bare hand. Gently remove all the debris without rubbing it into the glass and creating new scratches.
Follow the cleaning with an aircraft specific plexiglass polish.
How to clean the inside of your aircraft
Cleaning the interior of your aircraft is a crucial step, especially from a brand perspective. Most customer don’t look to much into the cleanliness of the outside, but if the seats are dirty, tray tables broken, carpet stains, etc--you’re going to have problems. Let’s avoid that at all costs.
But before you jump in and start Cloroxing everything, you need to be sure that you and your entire maintenance and cleaning team understand important safety concerns. Most of your aircraft interior meets specific flammability parameters. Cleaning products can degrade this over time. Make sure to follow your maintenance manual.
Quick tip: Send your maintenance manual to your material supplier and tell them to supply you with the right products for your particular project. Or even better, put these aircraft consumables into a Vendor Managed Inventory and never have to worry about them again.
You’re not going to perform the same type of cleaning every day. Break it up. Every day during your transit stops clean the areas that a passenger will see. Dry clean the outside and use various cleaning wipes on the inside. You may have to shampoo the carpet as needed.
Set a schedule. Maybe it’s once a month or once a quarter where you really deep clean the inside.
The World Health Organization has a great post on aircraft interior cleaning. It’s worth reading and setting your own schedule based on your routes and maintenance manual.
When working in the galley and lavatory, Mike says “…to take the necessary precautions to protect your technicians from germs with protective gear while cleaning. Pay particular attention when cleaning your fresh water system because your passengers and crew can become ill rather quickly while in flight if it’s compromised.”
Now you have it, a beautiful interior and exterior aircraft.