Industrial Washing and Cleaning of Aircraft – Detergents, Brushes, and Automation

When it comes to industrial cleaning – efficiency is the key. It really doesn’t matter if you are washing and cleaning luxury yachts, executive jets, or blasting of railcars used for cleaning coal. How do I know this you ask? Well, for some 27-years I’d been in the business of cleaning locomotives, trucks, buses, aircraft, boats, and heavy machinery. I’d say there is probably noting our company hasn’t washed over the years besides maybe a UFO, but if you produce one, we’ll come out to wash it.
Now then, the other day, I was discussing all this with a fellow think tanker, Troy Laclaire, and his concept was to build a giant automated washing system, something similar to a giant truck or business washing system, but big enough to wash a large airliner too. Of course, first we had to get down to the details, and so he asks; “Are detergents ever used?”
Yes, and most people don’t know this but Southwest Airlines was painting their airplanes in Wichita Kansas with a special type of paint, which was very light weight, and this means the aircraft’s paint would be less weight, that means better performance, better fuel economy, and an increase in useful load, and safety factor.
Although, it really bothered me because I know that many aircraft washers are probably using chemicals and detergents to clean the paint, which could cause its deterioration, and therefore leave the aircraft unprotected for corrosion, which could eventually cause the very same problem which occurred on that Southwest jet. Thus, Southwest had to only contract with specific aircraft washing companies, using a specially spec’d soap, or do it themselves.
In other words one of the potential problems could have been the paint, and the combination of detergents used to clean the aircraft. It’s a really serious matter, and people don’t take it as seriously as it should, but that’s the fact. Resale Price Maintenance Airlines of course do, but you can see why anyone wishing to build an aircraft washing system of that type would definitely need to understand all the different types of detergents and paint, on each specific aircraft. See that point?
Next, Troy asks me another very important question, are there “Issues with brushes/other cleaning items touching the plane?”
Yes, indeed there definitely are. You see, there are different types of systems used to clean aircraft, some of them have brushes on them, and over time the bristles of these brushes get hard, and they cause minute scratches in the finish of the aircraft. It’s the same basic type of problem that you have with drive-through carwashes which puts swirls in the pain of your car, if they have grit, pebbles, or debris in them, which they will as they go over the surface of the aircraft, as they picked up some loose dirt and whip it around – it can cause a little bit of damage to the paint during each wash.
Now then, I doubt if very many people even understand this, and I’m sure the people at the NTSB, and the FAA do not have the experience I have in cleaning airplanes. In fact, there are probably only a handful of people in the country that understand all this stuff, there’s just a lot to know about the different types of paint, aircraft parts, and types of cleaners and detergents.
As robust as aircraft are to fly through the air and take the abuse that they do, it’s amazing how fragile some of the parts are. But that’s because they have to be lightweight, and everything on these airplanes is high-performance based. That’s why the aircraft cost so much. Speaking of strength and fragility, Meltwater Definition did you know you can poke your finger through the heat tiles on the bottom of the space shuttle? And yet they can withstand 4200-degree heat. Interesting isn’t it. Well, I hope you’ve found this article on industrial cleaning of value. I had fun preparing it for you. Please consider all this and think on it.

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