What Should I Expect When Doing Aircraft Maintenance and Spring Cleaning?
It is the responsibility of every plane owner to think about routine aircraft maintenance and the occasional spring cleaning.
Aircraft maintenance is important because it not only extends the life of your aircraft, it is also necessary for making sure that your aircraft will perform safely for the expected period of time.
Regular maintenance of your plane and periodic spring cleaning represent preventative measures against long-term damage. Your aircraft should undergo different levels of inspection through a recommended maintenance schedule.
Take note that every responsible plane owner should know the basics of aircraft maintenance. So while you should be able to run through the fundamentals of making sure your plane runs smoothly, and perhaps do some DIY tune-ups, remember that anything that involves the engine and other sensitive systems is best left to professionals.
Wash your aircraft’s exterior
Many owners pay someone else to wash their plane because they are too intimidated by the process and are concerned that they may force water into places that should remain dry. (This is the reason why it is not a good idea to use a pressure washer.)
- Wash off the dirt. Using a gentle stream of water and your bare hand, wipe away debris from the exterior. You may also opt to use an aviation-specific cleaning solution that dissolves the protein (from dead bugs) without ruining the paint.
- Clean the plexiglass. Spray the surface with a plastic-specific cleaner and wipe it off with a soft, absorbent cloth.
- Wash the underbelly. When cleaning this part, you may want to lay down a tarp to make the cleanup process easy. And to get under the plane, you need a creeper to make it easy to spray the underbelly with an aluminum-safe degreaser. Then, wipe it off with a soft, absorbent cloth. Repeat the process until you have removed all the dirt.
Most soap and cleaners contain alkaline that can corrode aluminum and paint. To prevent damaging the exterior of your plane, you may want to consider the common hacks of pilots and owners–use mild dishwashing soap.
Or, if you don’t mind spending more, you can buy a cleaner specifically designed for aviation.
Wax and polish
A good rule of thumb is to wax and polish your aircraft every six months with products designed for aviation. Pay extra attention to areas such as the “polishable” metals like the inlets, leading edges, spinner heads, etc., which are susceptible to corrosion in cold weather.
Regular waxing and polishing are particularly important for low-wing aircraft because they are susceptible to corrosion as they often come into contact with chemicals such as deicers that keep runways clear and ice-free.
Hire a professional to clean the gear well area
Unless you are trained in cleaning the gear well area correctly, it is best to hire a professional cleaning company to do this task. But if you insist on cleaning this part, make sure that you don’t use pressure water and keep in mind that it is extremely sensitive because of the mechanical parts.
To prevent disturbing the mechanical parts, the entire surface of the gear well should be hand-wiped and cleaned with chemicals designed for aviation.
Clean the aircraft’s interior
Before cleaning the interior, remove everything that is not fixed to the aircraft–e.g., batteries, napkins, flashlights, pens, and other knick-knacks.
Once everything is out, remove the carpet and place it on a clean flat surface. If there are stains, you can remove them with a carpet cleaner.
Also, vacuum the seats, aisle, and every nook and cranny, especially under the center console, beneath the rear seat, and around the rudder pedals. Then, wipe off any grime or grease (such as from leaking master brake cylinders) with a soft cloth and cleaner.
If your aircraft has leather seats, use a cleaner that is specifically designed for this material to prevent staining and dulling its surface. In addition, make sure that you use a cleaner that also contains a UV protectant to protect it from UV rays that can cause leathers to dry and crack.
When cleaning glass surfaces, make sure that you spray your towel with a cleaner rather than directly the panel.
Remove expired products, chemicals, and junk from your storage areas. Remember, cleaning is much easier if there is no clutter.
Protect the exterior from UV exposure
Your aircraft’s paint is susceptible to corrosion due to sunlight, moisture, and other elements. For this reason, you need a paint sealant that provides long-duration protection.
Unlike wax, paint sealants do not require re-application every few months.
Note: Some paint sealants have a glossy finish, while others have a chalked appearance.
A Final Word
Besides improving your plane’s performance, regular maintenance also helps in extending the useful life of your aircraft. A well-maintained aircraft means it will operate at its best for the rest of its life with minimal wear and tear.
Routine aircraft maintenance and spring cleaning must be steady and systematic. All planes require regular check-ups to guarantee that they are safe to operate. In fact, not only is it essential to ensure air traffic is safe, airplane maintenance also helps avoid incurring unnecessary expenses over the long term.