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How to Detail An Airplane

Have you noticed your airplane is looking a little bit worse for wear lately? Regardless of how many miles you’ve flown recently, there could be dirt, dust and debris piling up on the surface and in the crevices of your aircraft. If this is the case, it may be time for a thorough cleaning to restore your aircraft’s natural beauty and avoid any safety hazards. Whether this is your first or thousandth time cleaning your aircraft, it never hurts to have a quick refresher so you can be sure you don’t miss anything. Follow these steps to detail your aircraft:

Start With the Underbelly

Dirt and debris can quickly pile up on the plane’s underbelly, and if left alone, it could begin to impact the antennas’ reception. Keeping this area of the aircraft clean protects your investment and helps you maintain its appearance.
But, before you apply any form of solution, you have to clean the surface of the airplane with water to remove any dirt or debris. Drop the flaps of your aircraft and spray water at a light pressure, but be sure to avoid your aircraft’s wheels. This area can easily trap water and lead to damaging corrosion, so it’s best to avoid it altogether. Be sure to go easy on the windows, in fact it may be better if you lightly spray the windows instead of using a hose. Once everything has been rinsed, wipe it down with a dry cloth.
Many airplane owners don’t have access to a hose, so they skip over this part of the cleaning process. Instead of skipping it, wipe the dust off with a dry cloth, shaking it out every few minutes to get rid of the dust that has accumulated. Then, spray a cleaning solution that is safe for plains on the dry cloth and go over the plane once more. During the first wipe down, you will be able to lift and remove dust, and the second wipe down can help you get rid of dirt and soot.

Move to the Interior

Use the same aircraft-friendly solution and rag to remove any spots or smudges on your interior. If you have access to an electrical outlet, or have a small, battery-powered vacuum, go over the floors of the interior of your aircraft. Even though you have already cleaned the outside of your windows, make sure you clean the inside, too. Smudges, dirt and dust can build up on both the interior and exterior of windows, so it’s important that you wipe down both sides for a thorough cleaning.

Next, Remove Grease

The next step in detailing your plane is to get rid of any grease that has built up over time. You have two options when it comes to removing grease from planes. You can either buy a specialty product designed to remove grease, or you can stick with the same cleaning solution you used in the previous steps. If you regularly maintain your plane, the cleaning solution should be enough to remove the light grease build-up. However, if you don’t remember the last time you’ve de-greased, it may be best to try to a specialty product that will efficiently remove layer upon layer of grease.
Start underneath the elevators and wings and begin scanning for any signs of dirt or grease smudges. Once this area is clear, move to the fuselage and scan from the back to the front for more spots. The closer you get to the front of the aircraft, the thicker the grease will probably be. After you’ve removed all the spots, wipe every area that you’ve cleaned down with a dry cloth. Be sure to wipe the wheels during this step since they were not rinsed during the first step.
The dry cloths you use to clean your plane can mainly be washed and reused except for the ones used to wipe off greasy areas. These should be thrown away as it is hard to wash out grease.

Tackle the Metal Surfaces

Finally, you will need to any metal surfaces of your plane. This is the finishing touch you need to make your plane really shine and look as if it has never taken a trip off the runway. Use the red, white and blue Bright Work polishes designed to remove heavy oxidation, water spots, cloudiness and scratches with a deep, glossy finish.
These polishes can either be applied by hand or by machine, depending on your preference. If you choose to apply it by hand, use a small amount on a soft cloth and rub it into the metal surface in a circular motion. Don’t move onto the next area until you begin to see a clear, mirror-like surface emerge. However, if you don’t want to do it by hand, use a circular buffer with an attached wool pad. All three polishes are applied in this manner, so once you have the first one down, you will be able to master the other two as well. Make sure you use them in the correct order (red, white and then blue) so you can see the maximum results for your efforts.
Be sure to devote ample time for getting this done, especially when it comes to polishing the metal surfaces. Depending on the size of your plane, it could take up to seven hours to get the entire plane done. Try to do this at least three times a year, or more frequently if you notice the plane getting dirty faster. Remember, the more often you polish the entire surface of the plane, the faster you will be able to do it each time, since there will be less buildup on a regularly maintained aircraft.
This may seem like a lot of work, but remember, a thorough detailing of your plane is essential for proper maintenance. Follow these tips every time dirt and debris begins to build up on your plane, and you can restore it back to its shiny and clean state once again!

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