After a long flight, cleaning your airplane is probably one of the last things on your mind. However, the buildup of dirt, bugs, and other debris can significantly impact the performance and long-term health of your aircraft. Here’s why you don’t want to skip the post-flight cleaning:
Any metal aircraft is subject to corrosion, which can lead to expensive maintenance. If left untreated, corrosion can cause irreversible damage and eventually make an aircraft unairworthy. Allowing dirt and other pollutants to accumulate on the airframe is just asking for corrosion. Bugs and bird droppings can also remove protective layers of paint, exposing the surfaces underneath to corrosion. After flying, use a soft damp cloth to remove debris from the main surfaces of the airplane, including the aircraft propeller. A simple solution of water and mild dish soap is usually enough to remove dirt and bugs. Avoid using a pressure washer, which may force water into static ports and cause serious damage.
Cleaning your airplane regularly will also help to protect important equipment from harm. For example, antennas mounted underneath the airplane (such as the transponder antenna) are often subject to dirt or oil residue from the engine exhaust. When covered with debris, the antennas won’t be able to transmit or receive signals effectively as possible. Giving your antennas a quick wipe-down after each flight is an easy way to protect their performance.
A dirty windshield is a safety hazard. Even small bugs on the windshield can obscure visibility and impede the pilot’s ability to spot traffic in the distance, especially on sunny days. Clean the windshield regularly, but take care to prevent scratching. Always use approved window cleaners and wipe the surface using a straight up and down motion, not a circular motion. Never use household ammonia-based glass cleaners on your windshield or windows, as these can cause scratching and disbonding.
It’s well worth it to stick around for a few minutes after a flight to give your aircraft some much-needed attention. As the saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Keep up with regular post-flight cleanings and you’ll protect your investment for years to come.