AS9120B, ISO 9001:2015, and FAA AC 0056B ACCREDITED

The Importance of Cleaning in Aircraft Maintenance

The corrosive substances can build up and seep through the protective paint layers of an aircraft and severely damage the metal underneath if left unchecked. Furthermore, regular cleaning of the undercarriage prevents the accumulation of dust, dirt, and debris, consequently keeping the plane running efficiently for longer. The pandemic's influence on the aviation sector has necessitated an increased need for regular aircraft cleaning, adding to the importance of such practices. Therefore, this blog will delve into all the nitty-gritty details of aircraft cleaning and how it is a significant contributor to maintenance and safety endeavors.

Principal Methods of Aircraft Cleaning

Annex F of the WHO’s ‘Guide to Hygiene and Sanitation in Aviation’ states explicit instructions to follow for the crew members responsible for aircraft cleaning during night stops or immediately after a flight. In addition, the annex recommends the usage of approved cleaning agents for routine cleaning, which are often different from those required for cleaning in suspected cases of infectious disease sources on board. Some of the instructions provided by the guide are as follows:

  • If potential sources of infection, such as unusual debris, insect carcasses, or certain bio-waste are noticed, the airline station manager should be immediately informed.
  • Steps should be taken to limit the spread of the source of infection. For instance, if a passenger is the carrier of a particular disease, their movement within the aircraft should be restricted or supervised, with constant coordination with the airline station manager.
  • Safety and cleanliness protocols should never be compromised or tampered with.

Instructions for the Aircraft's Interior Cleaning

The level of interior cleaning for an aircraft is determined by the turnaround time, flight schedule, cleaning staff size, service requirements, and other unique operational conditions. Furthermore, certain cleaning activities can be requested on-demand by asking the airline station manager, the operator flight crew, or the cabin crew. For flights that are conducted with minimum service requirements, the cleaning procedures are far simpler and are enlisted below:

  • All cleaning activities should be put on hold until passenger disembarkation is completed. In the case of transit passengers, cleaning activities shall be resumed only as long as the passengers are not inconvenienced.
  • Window panes should be cleaned with only the recommended cleaning agents and wiped with a dry cloth. Likewise, in-seat monitors and passenger seat control panels should be cleaned using the appropriate cleaning agents for each, followed by a wiping with a microfibre cloth or non-abrasive paper towels, as per requirements.
  • Sticky substances should be lightly scraped off with a spatula from the cloth coverings on seats before vacuuming.
  • Stains from carpets and leather-covered seats should be removed with the recommended cleaning agents.
  • Instructions for cleaning and disinfection of galleys, cabin, lavatories, the flight deck, and crew rest areas should be adhered to according to the guidelines provided by the annex.
  • The cleaning of galleys and lavatories should be prioritized in the face of insufficient time. Furthermore, aircraft cleaners should pay particular attention to the inaccessible spaces that can store a build-up of leftover foods and beverages.

Instructions for Cleaning the Aircraft's Exterior

The procedures for cleaning the external surfaces of an aircraft are different from those for cleaning its interior, as described below:

  • Polishing Painted Surfaces: Polishing is done to remove the dust, oxidation, and general corrosion on the aircraft's painted or unpainted exterior to restore its former luster while boosting overall safety and performance. Usually, non-abrasive cleaning solutions or orbital buffers are commonly used for polishing vertical and horizontal stabilizers, the leading edges of aircraft wings, cockpit window frames, and engine nlets. Meanwhile, the plastic areas and painted surfaces are masked to avoid damage.
  • Polishing Unpainted Surfaces: The external surface of the aircraft body can be made of aluminum or fiberglass, or it may be covered with a layer of paint that requires non-abrasive polish agents which are compatible for use with that surface. Aluminum surfaces can be cleaned with non-abrasive pads, polish, and orbital buffers.
  • Wet Wash: Although wet washing may be restricted in certain airports and hangars due to the US EPA's ever-evolving regulations, it is still a popular cleaning technique for the aircraft exterior. However, wet washing should be done with approved OEM soaps while avoiding excessive pressure on sensitive parts such as landing gear, the windshield, and engine mounts. Moreover, brushes can be used to scrape and remove accumulated dirt, insect carcasses, or toxic build-up.
  • Dry Wash: Dry washes are most suitable for removing carbon, exhaust fume streaks, grease, oil, insect waste, and other substances. As the name suggests, dry aircraft washes are preferred when wet washing is not allowed, and the method utilizes mops, cloths, or chemical sprays.

Aircraft Cleaning in the Context of the COVID-19 Pandemic

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) issued several guidelines on March 13, 2020 to disinfect aircraft that were under operation to meet specific supply chain and commercial requirements in the backdrop of the outbreak of the novel SARS-CoV-2. One set of guidelines was intended for third-country operators engaged in commercial flights (where the passengers had to be protected from the risk of secondary contamination), while the other was for EASA member states. EASA guidelines were built off the WHO's '’Guide to Hygiene and Sanitation in Aviation,’' published in 2009, under the section titles ''Operational considerations for managing COVID-19 cases or outbreak in aviation''. According to standard operating procedures, EASA guidelines mandated all aircraft cleaners to be wholly dressed in personal protective equipment. Moreover, the guidelines also prohibited water sprays or compressed air, which may aerosolize viral particles.

Wrapping Up

There is no doubt that routine aircraft cleaning is paramount for improving an aircraft's long-term fuel efficiency and safety. Similarly, aircraft health is also largely influenced by the health of its parts, and only reliable names like Aviation Domain 360 can be trusted to supply top-quality aircraft components for your needs. Being a leading supplier of all electrical, IT, and NSN parts, Aviation Domain 360 is the ultimate name for sourcing the part of your choice. Moreover, we have an exhaustive catalog of over 2 billion new, obsolete, and hard-to-find products, guaranteed to have undergone thorough quality-assurance tests. You can get started using the Instant RFQ service available on our website, and someone from our team will respond to your quote within 15 minutes or less. 


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