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How Do Airlines Clean Planes?  
User currently offlinecosyr From United States of America, joined Jul 2012, 389 posts, RR: 0
Posted (1 year 6 months 1 week 3 days 12 hours ago) and read 5913 times:

We talk about which airlines have the cleanest planes and which ones don't wash them enough, but as I have never worked in maintenance, how do they actually clean the outside of the planes? Does anyone have any pictures of the process?

How long does it take? How often does a big airline like UA or DL wash each plane (since they have more than 700)? Does anyone actually scrub difficult oil stains?

Just curious, Thanks!

[Edited 2013-02-19 17:56:12]

21 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlineqf002 From Australia, joined Jul 2011, 2967 posts, RR: 2
Reply 1, posted (1 year 6 months 1 week 3 days 8 hours ago) and read 5611 times:

Pretty much the same way that you wash your car. Seems like a fun job to me  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mSanofkPMFQ&sns=em

User currently offlinelarshjort From Denmark, joined Dec 2007, 1454 posts, RR: 0
Reply 2, posted (1 year 6 months 1 week 3 days 5 hours ago) and read 5565 times:

Quoting qf002 (Reply 1):
Seems like a fun job to me

No it is not a fun job   . I have washed plenty of aircraft and I prefer to wash my car.

/Lars



139, 306, 319, 320, 321, 332, 34A, AN2, AT4, AT5, AT7, 733, 735, 73G, 738, 739, 146, AR1, BH2, CN1, CR2, DH1, DH3, DH4,
User currently onlineStarlionblue From Greenland, joined Feb 2004, 17028 posts, RR: 67
Reply 3, posted (1 year 6 months 1 week 3 days 4 hours ago) and read 5537 times:

Well, when they fly through the rain they spray detergent from a container in the radome... 


At the flight school I went to, there is a great guy called Ron who washes the planes inside and out. He is barely comprehensible unless speak Redneck but he is a fantastic guy. Every flight school should have a Ron.



"There are no stupid questions, but there are a lot of inquisitive idiots."
User currently offlineHAWK21M From India, joined Jan 2001, 31679 posts, RR: 56
Reply 4, posted (1 year 6 months 1 week 3 days 3 hours ago) and read 5506 times:

Quoting qf002 (Reply 1):

Nice video......At times on the line without access to a lot of water.....A group of four with a long sheet thats dropped over the fuselage and pulled uniformly from each side works great.



Think of the brighter side!
User currently offlinedalmd88 From United States of America, joined Jul 2000, 2544 posts, RR: 14
Reply 5, posted (1 year 6 months 1 week 2 days 23 hours ago) and read 5431 times:

We use a waterless compound on the exterior surface. It is applied with a long handle flat mop (like a swiffer) allowed to dry for about 15 min and then wiped off with another mop. The people that do this don't usually last long. Most do it for six month or a year and then bid on other jobs like delivering parts or working in a tool crib. I know some that are doing it while going to school for their A&P.

User currently offlineMrCazzy From United States of America, joined Oct 2011, 35 posts, RR: 0
Reply 6, posted (1 year 6 months 1 week 2 days 22 hours ago) and read 5406 times:

I am currently working as a washday assistant at university of North Dakota, we get to wash cessnas, piper products as well as king air. UND is on a progressive inspection schedule for the places and they are always washed the day before the inspection is due.

User currently offlineTristarsteve From Sweden, joined Nov 2005, 4000 posts, RR: 34
Reply 7, posted (1 year 6 months 1 week 2 days 19 hours ago) and read 5335 times:

At DOH. Qatar Airways have a gang that drive up and down the flight line with a washer truck. They clean all the wheels and brakes, and then the bellies if they have time

Washing a QR A330 at DOH


User currently offlineDarksnowynight From United States of America, joined Jan 2012, 1356 posts, RR: 3
Reply 8, posted (1 year 6 months 1 week 2 days 15 hours ago) and read 5217 times:

Quoting qf002 (Reply 1):
Seems like a fun job to me  

If you're the kind of guy who counts activities like having teeth pulled for non-medical reasons, trying to find ways to pay more in taxes, getting married, pissing out kidney stones or changing out dog-poop cans as "fun", then yes, it is that. Very.

The truth is that it's a very labor intensive gig, and there are precisely three reasons to get involved with it.

A. You need money, and you don't know a loan shark.

B. You are looking for an entry level gig that you can promote your way out of, and like hanging out with airplanes and Airport Trash. A lot.

C. You intensely hate everything there ever was, is, or will be about yourself, and/or are possibly paying off some ridiculous debt you racked up in a previous life.

The money's generally crap-ish.


So let's talk about this job. Despite what I've said above, there's a lot interesting about it...

Quoting cosyr (Thread starter):
how do they actually clean the outside of the planes?

There are a number of ways, and as mentioned above, drywashing is the most common. There are two reasons for this.

A. First, most airports do not allow wet-washing for environmental reasons. This leaves drywashing as the only effective method.

B. It's cheap.

Quoting cosyr (Thread starter):
How often does a big airline like UA or DL wash each plane (since they have more than 700)? Does anyone actually scrub difficult oil stains?

Depends. I know that US Airways was on a 180 day cycle as of two years ago for single aisles & about 260 for twin aisle & 757 ETOPS aircraft.

UA is experimenting with a hybrid dry/wet wash at this time & DL drywashes on a similar scale to US.

AA has no program in place and washes their aircraft with a very brief power water wash session at their C check intervals. Bare metal makes it hard to tell from far away (it hides a lot more than you might think), but their planes are about the worst in the business, (domestically).

WN is one of the only airlines I know of that do this in house. I'd say their results are decent, but the horrible quality of the 1st batch of their canyon blue paints makes it hard to tell sometimes.

Airlines like VX, AS & B6 actually do a much better job, as their philosophies here center around doing a lighter cleaning more often. Up close, you can see where a job may not have been as thorough, but since it's done way more often, you have to really be looking for dirt to spot it.

Oil stains... These are actually the easiest to remove, especially the "soft" oil buildups on the engine nacelle bottoms & APU regions. What's hard to remove are things like skydrol buildups. These can, over time, develop into a sandpaper-like film, which will require things like plastic scrapers and lots of time to pull off, in addition to the usually amount of degreaser & drywash compound. A streak thirty feet long and roughly half the width of the lowermost A32X belly panel will use up about 10 man hours to remove.




This part's kinda long, so if you want to skip it, I won't be offended.

If you're asking what a typical dry wash looks like, (and maybe why I said all those nice things about it above!), I think the best way to explain is to run you through what a typical shift looks like. All contracts are different, so I'll run through an anonymous one from a few years ago...

First off, you don't actually know whether you're working tonight or not. Though the plan is for five washes a week, there are a lot of factors that go into whether you work a given night.

What's the WX situation? Things like JetShield do not work well below about 35 degrees, or when it's humid out, or at all when it rains. By coincidence, most employees don't work well under those conditions. So, we need to make sure that the weather is right before you can work.

Next, what tail #s are in? If it's been done too recently, you can't work it. If your client airline only sends you seven RONs a night this can frequently be a problem.

Once you've made it past those hurdles, is there MX being done on that plane tonight? Though keeping the plane clean is important for a number of reasons, almost all MX will trump that, and the airline does not like to start a wash once you get to within a certain time to departure; usually about six hours.

Ok, so you've made it that far. Now, do you have the minimum number of JetWipes ready to show up? Why on earth would this be a problem? Don't employees always show up for work? Well, the job itself is very laborious and the schedule is unpredictable. As well, at most airports, getting from E lot to ramp is a pain in the ass. And of course, in return for selling your time for airport minimum, you get the unpredictability of life at 3 - 5 days a week for all of the above factors. So what happens? Well most of these guys have more than one job, since counting on this would lead to starvation and the exact opposite of wealth. Not surprisingly, turnover is as high as folks who think Pauli Shore is funny. A lot of people are also magically sick on Friday & Saturday nights. Weird, huh?

Alright, so you've made it past all that and you have a shift. Get your stuff together and get out to the airplane. It takes about an hour to get people and supplies from clock in to gate, or remote. Sometimes less, but that's what needs to be planned on.

After that, MX is contacted so they can get out there and seal up things like Static Ports (wouldn't be good to leave 'Shield in those), and tell you the plane's ready. This process can take anywhere from right away to our all time record of six hours. Really depends on how busy they are. Count on waiting a little bit though.

So now, you're working. You're going to need spotlights, headlamps, and/or kleig lights to illuminate your area, and lifts to get up topside. That rudder aint gonna wash itself!

The wash compound goes on like a car wax, and can be left on as long as you like. For most dirt grime, simply going over this and applying light pressure as you do so is enough to get the job done. But as mentioned above, special areas will require special attention, and sometimes, going over it a time or six. To remove the compound, a swipe with a rag will do. And viola, clean plane, you're done. Right?

Well, not really. MX still has to come out and look it over. Nine times out of ten, they'll sign right off. But when they don't, you're going to be there a while.

When you do actually leave, it's best to change first. I never did this, because, like most others there, I had another job to get to and it really wasn't worth to change and then shower, etc. But seriously, I'm glad I didn't really care about that car. The accumulation of Jet Wax on my clothes actually hardened my seat and eventually added a layer of "shine" to it. The funny part of all this wasn't the myriad of things my erstwhile girlfriend used to say about that job; it was that I had a girlfriend in the first place!

It was a lot of long and thankless nights, because one part of that job that really doesn't get touched on really stands out after a while... Nobody likes you! Actually, it's not even that; it's more of Everybody doesn't like you! Whether it's MX, ground Ops, DX, fueling etc, your job is pretty much to be in everybody's way. But it's not all bad.

I took and kept the job because eventually that company noticed that I have an A&P, PPL, mgmt experience and a few other goodies, and life is now technically awesome. Of course there was some luck involved with all that, but if you're into planes, can't find a job in your exact field, or just want to work at a major airport, this is a pretty good way in. You just don't want to stay there for life, lol.

Quoting Tristarsteve (Reply 7):
They clean all the wheels and brakes, and then the bellies if they have time

That's great. Wheels & Brakes are always the first things to look awful on any plane, and it would be really great if domestic airlines paid attention to this during their cleaning cycle. They're a lot more noticeable than people realize and it makes a huge difference in appearance. To me, a freshly washed plane with dirty wheels is like a beautiful, naked woman. With a ripe and raging yeast infection. It's a critical detail that just ruins the whole thing!



Posting without Knowledge is simply Tolerated Vandalism... We are the Vandals.
User currently offlinecosyr From United States of America, joined Jul 2012, 389 posts, RR: 0
Reply 9, posted (1 year 6 months 1 week 1 day 14 hours ago) and read 5024 times:

Thanks, That was really interesting. I appreciate the detailed insights.

User currently offlineSenchingo From Germany, joined Oct 2010, 111 posts, RR: 0
Reply 10, posted (1 year 6 months 1 week 1 day 14 hours ago) and read 5017 times:

Posted this one in the "clean wing policy" thread a while ago:

There have been quite some discussions about airlines and the cleanliness of their aircraft which i can't confirm, but from my personal opinion, i thought LH and NH's aircraft were extremely clean while AF, BA and IB to me seemed a bit "dirty".
BTW: Saw JL's cleaning machine last time i departed from NRT. Very neat indeed.
http://www.narita-airport.jp/en/fun/...lery/photo/vol_07/wall/w832_15.jpg


User currently offlineqf002 From Australia, joined Jul 2011, 2967 posts, RR: 2
Reply 11, posted (1 year 6 months 1 week 23 hours ago) and read 4837 times:

Quoting Darksnowynight (Reply 8):

Well when you put it like that...


User currently offlineJAGflyer From Canada, joined Aug 2004, 3513 posts, RR: 4
Reply 12, posted (1 year 6 months 1 week 9 hours ago) and read 4599 times:

Zep Brand "Aircraft Cleaner II" is a very common aircraft detergent used for exterior washes of all types of aircraft.


Support the beer and soda can industry, recycle old airplanes!
User currently offlineB777Neuss From Germany, joined Aug 2007, 155 posts, RR: 0
Reply 13, posted (1 year 6 months 6 days 5 hours ago) and read 4287 times:

http://www.pmw.de/cps/rde/xchg/pm_online/hs.xsl/3637_ENU_HTML.htm

But I'am not sure if Lufthansa still uses this procedure for cleaning their planes. Seems to me more like a demonstration.


User currently offlineViscount724 From Switzerland, joined Oct 2006, 25166 posts, RR: 22
Reply 14, posted (1 year 6 months 5 days 14 hours ago) and read 4137 times:

JAL installed an aircraft washing structure at NRT in 1987. Photo and description here.
http://www.khi.co.jp/english/kplant/...ry_infra/distribution/washing.html


User currently offlineneutrino From Singapore, joined May 2012, 606 posts, RR: 0
Reply 15, posted (1 year 6 months 2 days 22 hours ago) and read 3821 times:

I used to be part of teams "gang-pressed" to manually wash & clean A-4 Skyhawks; oh, so long ago. Small though they were compared to airliners, believe me, they were absolutely no fun at all. Its not a task for human beings!  


Potestatem obscuri lateris nescitis
User currently offline737tdi From United States of America, joined Sep 2007, 812 posts, RR: 1
Reply 16, posted (1 year 6 months 2 days 13 hours ago) and read 3725 times:
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Quoting Tristarsteve (Reply 7):
WN is one of the only airlines I know of that do this in house. I'd say their results are decent, but the horrible quality of the 1st batch of their canyon blue paints makes it hard to tell sometimes

.

I have washed/cleaned many aircraft my self as an A&P. I am an older guy so take that. WN has altered the way aircraft are washed and polished. Yes, they do get polished. They are washed every C check and if terribly dirty will be brought in for a scrub.


User currently offlinedarksnowynight From United States of America, joined Jan 2012, 1356 posts, RR: 3
Reply 17, posted (1 year 6 months 1 hour ago) and read 3510 times:

Quoting 737tdi (Reply 16):


I have washed/cleaned many aircraft my self as an A&P. I am an older guy so take that. WN has altered the way aircraft are washed and polished. Yes, they do get polished.

You guys use a separate wax for that, or an all in one like JetShield or Proshell?



Posting without Knowledge is simply Tolerated Vandalism... We are the Vandals.
User currently offlinenwcoflyer From United States of America, joined Jun 2003, 690 posts, RR: 14
Reply 18, posted (1 year 5 months 4 weeks 1 day 12 hours ago) and read 3414 times:

Schedule them through Seattle and Portland on a regular basis lol


The New American is arriving.
User currently offlineHAWK21M From India, joined Jan 2001, 31679 posts, RR: 56
Reply 19, posted (1 year 5 months 3 weeks 5 days 4 hours ago) and read 3187 times:

Quoting Tristarsteve (Reply 7):
clean all the wheels and brakes

And risk loosing grease.......



Think of the brighter side!
User currently offlineMD11Engineer From Germany, joined Oct 2003, 14003 posts, RR: 62
Reply 20, posted (1 year 5 months 3 weeks 5 days 1 hour ago) and read 3156 times:

Our company´s cleaners wash our customer aircraft wet whenever they are in our hangar for more than a day or so (usually during night. MX prepares the aircraft, sealing static ports and pitot tubes etc., and the cleaners work at night when there is only a minumum MX crew at work).
They also do tech washes of the wheel wells and landing gear etc. but these jobs require the landing gear to be relubed, because the powerwashers theyx use tend to blow the grease out of the joints. Usually the tech wash is being done early in the check, so that the area will then be clean for inspections and lube jobs.

Jan


User currently offlineboeingfixer From Canada, joined Jul 2005, 530 posts, RR: 0
Reply 21, posted (1 year 5 months 3 weeks 4 days 23 hours ago) and read 3134 times:

Quoting HAWK21M (Reply 19):
Quoting Tristarsteve (Reply 7):
clean all the wheels and brakes

And risk loosing grease.......

That's what I was thinking looking at that A330 gear being washed on the line. Sure hope there was a mechanic with a grease gun there after the wash.

I had to deal with a B727 that had a gear pressure wash in which water entered the wheel bearing covers. After a long flight the aircraft landed with severe main wheel vibrations. So bad that the crew thought they landed with one flat main gear tire. They stopped on a high speed turnoff and I had to look over the gear before they taxied to the gate. No signs of any tire damage or deflation. At the gate I had to jack the gear and check the brakes/wheels etc. for broken/missing parts. What I found was about a litre of water in each wheel bearing cover. What happened is this water froze in the bearings during cruise flight and upon landing damaged the roller bearing cages on all the wheels necessitating a 4 wheel change. Because of this I am very firm with our cleaners not to pressure wash the wheels during our B-Checks.

Cheers,

John



Cheers, John YYC
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