Avstar Aircraft of Washington, Inc.

10415 172nd St. E., Hangar A1
Puyallup, WA  98374
office (253)770-9964
or (253)770-0120
email:  avstarair@att.net

06-21-1999 Ask Mike! Archive
What are the benefits of a clean plane?

Other than making it look nice, what are the benefits of keeping my plane clean?


A clean airplane is a happy airplane.  From the inside out.  Accumulations of dirt & debris inside can cause corrosion, if it gets wet.  The dirt can filter through the carpet, into the floorboards and deposit itself in control bearings, etc., that can and will wear out.  Under the cowling, excess dirt and oil accumulation can prohibit your finding a problem on pre-flight that needs to be brought to your technician's attention.  Ditto for the belly.  Also, as far as under cowl goes, cooling could be affected.
Now, assuming your question was relating to the aircraft exterior, I'll finally get to that!  An aircraft that is washed and waxed on a regular basis will, indeed, perform better than if not.  This is especially true if the paint is one of the older lacquers or enamel, i.e. - a non-catalyzed paint.  These older paints tend to be more porous, and when these pores open up, through a process called oxidation, the drag over the surface becomes much higher.  So much higher, in fact, that a small aircraft can loose 5 to 10% cruise speed, at the same power setting!  This is certainly significant.  Additionally, the dust, pollen, etc. that accumulates on the exterior of an aircraft can work it's way into external hinges and bearings, causing additional wear and, naturally, expense.
How often is enough to wash an airplane?  Honestly, I don't keep mine clean enough.  I'll wash it when the streaks start to appear from air pollution, maybe three or four times a year.  That works for me.  As I have it painted with an acrylic urethane paint, I only wax it once a year, and it looks great.  I also keep it hangared, a big plus.  I also need to tell you of one of my customers.  He owns a 1950 Beech Bonanza; it's his absolute pride & joy.  He'll spend at least two hours after a trip to wipe it down and keep it clean, including waxing all leading edges after every flight!  A full waxing comes every couple of months.  It is, indeed, a pleasure to work on this airplane; I really don't get dirty.  Plus, he is able to tell me about any oil leaks, the exhaust color, etc., that can help us out in any required trouble shooting.  I also add, this aircraft doesn't need much maintenance, other than Annual Inspection and other scheduled servicing. Maybe that's the message here:  An owner in tune with his aircraft has the ability to stay ahead of the game.
Gear Green,