Topic Author
Posts: 6990
Joined: Thu Dec 22, 2005 1:43 am

Comparative Cleanliness Of Wings

Thu Dec 22, 2005 1:59 am

Hello, everyone. I'm a new member of, but I've read and enjoyed postings and photos here for quite some time.

By way of introduction, as a layman, I'm not particularly well-versed concerning the technical aspects of aircraft. I've always liked Boeing aircraft because of Boeing's storied history, as well as a comparative familiarity with the company's products.

I have a question that may seem rather ordinary. The question is, do you believe that the wings on Boeing aircraft, such as 737-800, and as displayed on, seem slightly "greasier" than those on comparable Airbus aircraft (e.g., the Airbus A320)? I spent a little time last night looking at the various photographs of Boeing versus Airbus aircraft posted on this site, and noticed a very slight, but discernible, difference in the amount of "grease streaks" in photographs of the upper surface of the wings of either kind of aircraft.

Is this a misimpression on my part? Is this merely a statistical anomaly of some kind, resulting from the small sample of photographs posted? For your reference, I did a Photo Search under "737" and "wing", and "A320" and "wing", respectively, in the appropriate search fields.

The difference is hardly noticeable, but it seems to be there.

Again, I am primarily a Boeing fan, and certainly mean no offense in regard to this question. Even if Boeing wings are slightly "greasier" than Airbus wings, I should hardly consider this to be very significant, since in my opinion, Boeing craft are preferable in so many other ways.

Thank you in advance for your comments in this matter; I hope someone can provide an answer from experience as to whether my impression concerning the comparative grease streaks is correct.

[Edited 2005-12-21 18:00:21]

[Edited 2005-12-21 18:01:28]
What's fair is fair.
Posts: 313
Joined: Fri Apr 20, 2001 10:39 pm

RE: Comparative Cleanliness Of Wings

Thu Dec 22, 2005 2:32 am

Initially I thought it might just be shear fluke. But then thinking about it - I suppose with Airbus being fly by wire that they have a lot less cables and pulleys etc - meaning less dirty oils and lubricants which can contaminate the surfaces.
Just a thought....
Posts: 1386
Joined: Wed Aug 10, 2005 8:51 am

RE: Comparative Cleanliness Of Wings

Thu Dec 22, 2005 2:46 am

Hmm, first of all, welcome to!

Ok, I never thought about that. I just thought that dirty wings were only matter of airline managing, however I find it pretty interesting. As you say, it might be origin problems, but I don't think they affect aircrafts performance. I did the same search you did and found this:

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Photo © Eric Coeckelberghs
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Photo © Robert Domandl

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Photo © Julian Adams
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Photo © Peter Tsagaris - CYOW Airport Watch

I believe it's just cleaning issues, but also think that boeing aircraft are more likely to get "dirty".

Cheers!  santahat 
Flying isn't dangerous. Crashing is what's dangerous!
Topic Author
Posts: 6990
Joined: Thu Dec 22, 2005 1:43 am

RE: Comparative Cleanliness Of Wings

Thu Dec 22, 2005 2:48 am

Thanks for the interesting answer. [EDIT: Thank for the great answer and photos as well, 797!]

I am such a Boeing fan, I was almost hoping that someone would simply say, "You're wrong -- Airbus wings are equally greasy."

Regardless, your answer is intriguing. I think that there are various factors at work, here, including not only the electromechanical issue you suggested, but the fact that it may be that U.S. domestic carriers may be over-represented in the Boeing portion of the sample I looked at. We have read rumors that U.S. carriers (as opposed to European carriers, for example) are comparatively -- shall we say -- "economical" -- in regard to various issues that, in the past, were seen as sources of pride. (By this I refer to maintaining cosmetic appearances, in the manner of many years past, that might be deemed cost-ineffective today.) Obviously, if the airlines that are represented are less likely to keep their aircraft clean, then this is a reflection of the airline and not the aircraft.

I do note that a few of the Boeing wing pictures I've seen show a virtually immaculate wing; these seem to be have taken aboard non-U.S. carriers, as I recall.

[Edited 2005-12-21 18:49:54]

[Edited 2005-12-21 18:52:16]
What's fair is fair.

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