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Spring into Flying: Aircraft Detailing Guide

Whether you’ve stored it or flew it throughout winter, your airplane may be in desperate need of a thorough cleaning this spring. Corrosives, pollutants, debris, grease, UV rays and even fluctuating temperatures can wreak havoc on your aircraft’s exterior. And the situation can be even worse in the cabin and cockpit. If your plane isn’t cleaned up, it can cause serious maintenance problems, paint discoloration and component deterioration down the road.

Of course, someone has to clean the mess up – and more often than not, it’s you. To help, read through this aircraft detailing guide so you understand how to properly clean your aircraft.

Interior Aircraft Cleaning

De-Clutter and Vacuum Your Aircraft

First things first, it’s time to do some spring cleaning. Start the aircraft detailing process by clearing out old documents, batteries, flashlights, pens, and all those other extraneous items stuffed in the glove compartment and cargo holds. It’s best to start working from a clutter-free space. When the interior has been cleaned, you can carefully sort through these items and judiciously decide which of these items can be placed back in the plane.

Once you’ve cleared the cockpit and cabin, pull out the carpet, seats if possible and other components that are blocking access to the floor. Bring out the vacuum and suck up the dirt, dust and debris from all the tough spots – around the rudder pedals, under the center console, below the captains’ seats, and so on. Use a rag and spray cleaner to clean any substances on the floors, such as water moisture, oil or grease. Lay the carpeting on a clean flat surface and use a carpet cleaning solution to remove stains. Gently spread all of the cracks in the seats and remove any debris left behind. Sand and dirt in these seams can wear cause them to split prematurely.

Clean the Instrument Panel

Next on your list should be cleaning the instrument panel and other interior plastic and vinyl components. Any aircraft cleaning service provider offers a variety of specialty plastic and vinyl cleaners that will provide the proper cleaning and protection. Most instruments on your panel will have glass faces. While they can be cleaned with aviation glass cleaner, you should always apply the cleaner with a rag, rather than spraying it directly on any instruments. Pro tip: avoid using cleaning products with glossy finishes on important airplane components. They can cause a distracting glare during flight.

Clean the Aircraft Seats

If you have leather seats and/or side panels, it’s worth it to use a high-end cleaning and protective cleaner to ensure the leather stays in good condition. Airplane seats can go through a lot throughout the year – from spilled drinks to exposure to UV rays to salt left behind from passenger sweat (try not to think about that one too much), leather can get worn out quickly. Although they make specialized products for aircraft, you can essentially use any high-end leather product on the market, such as those made for high-end automobiles and home furniture. Whatever you buy, make sure that the final coating includes a UV protectant.

For those aircraft owners with fabric seats, you can use a fabric cleaner – remember to test a small amount on an inconspicuous spot first to ensure that you the chemicals won’t discolor or damage the fabric.

Cleaning Interior Windows

When you’ve fully cleaned out the interior, you can then move on to the interior windows. Use an aviation-specific glass cleaner to clear smudges and smears from window surfaces. To avoid waste from over spraying, dab some window cleaner on a rag rather than spraying the all of the windows throughout the cabin.

Exterior Aircraft Cleaning

Washing the Aircraft

Washing your aircraft is one of the most essential detailing tasks you should complete each spring (and probably a few times a year, depending on how much you fly), and is essential for several reasons. First, a clean aircraft doesn’t suffer from corrosion – the ultimate killer of airplane bodies. Second, even a small plane can collect a large amount of dirt and debris, especially if it’s been sitting outside for the winter, weighing down the plane and causing inefficient fuel use. Lastly, a clean airplane looks great and just feels better to fly.

Cleaning a small aircraft is pretty straightforward, just follow the steps below:

  1. Shut the doors to seal them from any seeping water.
  2. Soak the plane in water to loosen dirt and debris.
  3. Find the softest brush you can, so you don’t scratch the paint as you scrub the exterior.
  4. Scrub the entire exterior of your plane, saving the underside for last so that no engine slime spreads around to other parts of the plane. Proper scrubbing technique is to scrub with the flow of air as it passes over the aircraft.
  5. Gently remove dust from exterior windows with water and dry them with a clean, gentle rag.
  6. Dry your plane with a few clean towels. Breathe on the surface of the airplane to see if any condensation forms. This is a good way to test if ice will form overnight outside or in your hangar – particularly important in early spring when the air cools at night.

Protecting the Paint Job

Most pilots are particular about their aircraft’s paint job, and even a mild knick or small discoloration can be infuriating, so it’s important to protect exterior surfaces from the elements. Spring presents a good time to apply or refresh these protections before your flying schedule gets busy. There are two basic forms of paint protection for your airplane: wax and paint sealant. Both will restore your paint’s appearance, but sealant doesn’t need to be reapplied throughout the year like with waxes. There are also other, higher-quality protective coatings you can add that will keep your paint job and airplane body looking great all year long.

Ceramic Pro – Proven Protective Coatings for Airplanes

Ceramic Pro is a clear, layerable, liquid nano-ceramic coating that cures into a permanent, durable yet flexible glass shield, protecting the surface it’s used on.

Ceramic Pro coatings are perfect for protecting airplanes from corrosion, denting, icing and will help you save on maintenance costs. Used for both exterior and interior protection, Ceramic Pro leaves your airplane looking great, while providing better visibility and additional safety during poor weather conditions thanks to its hydrophobic properties.

Exterior Protection

The exterior of your plane will receive protection from corrosion, contaminants and any accidental damage. Ceramic Pro coatings are non-organic and cannot be dissolved by acids, bases, and solvents, meaning it permanently remains on the aircraft and maintains a brand-new appearance for years.

Interior Protection

Ceramic Pro also has specialized uses for plastic, leather, textile and antibacterial coatings that will extend the lifespan of your aircraft interior. No matter how old your plane is, Ceramic Pro can refresh the look of seats and plastic parts in the cockpit and cabin.

Premier Ceramic Pro Services in Minneapolis/St. Paul

We offer Ceramic Pro services in the Twin Cities through our partner, Citadel Aircraft Maintenance, located at Flying Cloud Airport. Get in touch with us to find out more about our full-service detailing packages that will get your aircraft clean and protect it from damage. Contact us today or call (952) 698-3000 to speak with one of our service professionals.