As part of any aircraft engine maintenance, or aircraft maintenance in general, planes must be washed, both inside and out, on a regular basis. However, cleaning an airplane is very different from washing the vehicle you drive.
One of the main differences between washing other vehicles and washing planes is that the fluid used to wash planes contains detergents, traces of oil, hydrocarbons and solvents not found in regular washing fluids. Because such chemicals are pollutants, they cannot be directed into storm water drains. This is especially true during aircraft engine maintenance that includes washing the engine.
During aircraft engine maintenance, as well as other plane maintenance, aviation mechanics use high-pressure hoses to wash the aircraft without water by blowing build-up and debris off the plane. When water is used, it’s mixed with detergent specifically designed for cleaning airplanes, using the minimal amount necessary to clean the plane. Wastewater from the plane is recovered using bundling equipment and a wet vacuum. Mechanics dispose of the wastewater in accordance with the SA Water Trade Waste General Policy.
Types of Cleaners
Because much of a plane is made of aluminum, which is a lightweight but strong metal, certain chemicals can have an adverse effect on the metal. Therefore, the FAA issued warnings that during aircraft engine maintenance, care must be taken with alkaline chemicals as they can damage any aluminum on the plane. In addition to the aluminum in a plane, care must be taken with the Plexiglas on the aircraft as well. Plexiglas must be cleaned in stages with plenty of water, followed by wiping with a clean flannel cloth using approved Plexiglas cleaner or polish. Avoid using high-powered pressure washers, as they can damage the plane.