Oxidation happens to paint, plastic, glass, metal, and rubber. It is caused by sun (UV rays), air,and environmental elements, which can vastly increase how quickly something becomes oxidized. Oxidization changes a shiny smooth surface to a more matte look. That is just a fact and it takes a bit of work every year or a LOT of work if it is a neglected. Despite the snow in February, the marine industry is already ramping up for spring; and “waxing” the boat before oxidation gets out of hand is an important part.
If wax was applied last year, odds are that it has worn off in some places over the last year. The top of the nose, leading edges, the top of the wings and fuselage are the most likely. Another problem area is the path of the exhaust along the fuselage. The good news is that leaves a lot of areas where the wax probably hasn’t worn off. Even an old aircraft that hasn’t been sealed in a few years could still be shiny under the wings.
How do you remove the oxidation? It depends on how damaged the paint is and there is no set point for what is light or heavy. Experience coupled with a test section will help determine the next steps. Since you are permanently removing a microscopic layer of oxidized paint, it is suggested that you start with less abrasive and examine the improvement. Select an area where the paint will be more heavily oxidized. If you “wax” often, the test section could be hard to see so a new layer of wax is all that is needed. Try a small subsection of the test section twice, if you can see the difference easily (compared to the first initial section) then that area is heavily oxidized.
First step is determining the level of oxidation. There are some tools you can use to help determine the level of oxidation but they are really expensive and not worth it. We do a first test for heavy oxidation. Wipe a clean fingertip alone the paint. If you have some paint on your finger, it is heavy oxidation and extra care must be taken. If the finger test is clean it is a matter of determining if a buffing is needed. Tape off a small square on a section of the aircraft where oxidation would be heavier. Out of sight is best so the top of fuselage or on top of the wings is better than the nose in front of the pilot. Try a little light compound. If the test section is shinier than the untouched paint then you know it is at least a light oxidation. Tape a subsection of the test section and do a second pass of light compound. Removing the tape, if you can see three distinct levels of shininess with the two pass section being the smoothest, it is at least a medium level oxidation.
Heavy oxidation is the most difficult to deal with. Tape will be necessary. Tape off any fragile parts such as windows, any small parts that a polisher could snag and rip off, etc. Taping off each colour will also be necessary as a polisher will slide white oxidized paint into the coloured paint and vice versa. A heavy cutting compound with more abrasives is used with a mechanical polisher. A dual-action (DA) polisher with a foam cutting pad, or a wool pad would be used. A rotary polisher with a foam pad is good for a heavy cut but isn’t the best for the follow up with the next stages. Keep looking over your work. You may need another Heavy compound pass or can jump to a light compound.
For light to medium oxidation a smaller “cut” on the paint on the paint can be used. The hard part is matching the compound and pad to the level of oxidation. The safest method is to take the least amount of paint off with the compound. Using two passes of a light compound with a matching foam pad on a DA polisher will be more physically demanding but is safer than going directly to a medium compound when a light compound is all that is needed. Experience will go a long way here.
Removing a heavy or medium oxidation by hand is possible but it is extremely difficult to get an even shine and it will result in taking off more paint than necessary. For very light oxidation a glaze or finishing polish. These products have very little abrasive in it and are meant to just bring more evenness in the shine. Your paint should almost look like you don’t need anything done to consider these products. The easiest product to use is a cleaner wax. This is a light abrasive and wax product that work together to polish and apply the sealant. The aviation wax, and the polymers we use are considered cleaner waxes and can be applied by hand.
For very light oxidation automotive retailers use a clay bar. In conjunction with a lubricant, it very lightly rubs the surface removing contaminants and smoothing a very small layer of the clear coat. Claying isn’t used on aircraft because the paint used on aircraft is much more durable than an automotive clear coat.
Work on relatively small sections at a time and re-examine the work. Nothing about this is static for a while job. Some areas may need a heavy cut, some a medium, some none. Keep an eye out for paint “bleed” into other colours and tape each section off.
Blue, red, black and other deep colours tend to show oxidation before white. The colours will develop microscopic white spots which show as a colour fade whereas white will just appear less shiny. These coloured areas will, generally, require an extra pass or a heavier cut.
Always seal any oxidation removal with a wax or polymer.
Good-bye Rain Season!
With the winter rains comes excess moisture, mold, mildew, and rot. This atmosphere is wonderful for the vegetation, not so good for your airplane. Year after year your plane must deal with spores reaching into cracks and seams. If we do not remove and clean it completely you will see the re-growth or worse, it can start to degrade the structure it is on.
What to do and what to use?
Lets begin with products. To rid your airplane of mold you will want to use something that will kill mold spores. Non-toxic cleaners like hydrogen peroxide, vinegar, and elbow grease will start you on a good path to eradicating those spores. Products similar to those we carry, (Wingman for the biological material on the exterior and Advantage for any biological staining for the interior) are great options. When looking at any cleaning products ensure you will not do any damage to your aircraft with their use and that they are not static creating.
Mold and biological matter is best removed by irritating the spores, then penetrating them with a cleaning solution. Once this is completed wipe, remove, and repeat the process using a clean cloth.
As you might suspect some of the areas you will want to work on will be a challenge to get into. This is where you can encourage some creative thinking. I use items such as soft toothbrushes, Q-tips, toothpicks, paint brushes, soft plastic scrapers, bamboo skewers, microfibers, cotton cloths, blue paper towels. As you proceed ensure you maintain clean tools.
Cleaning away mold, mildew, and moisture should be done safely; please ensure you remember some safety precautions. Safety precautions include ensuring there is appropriate ventilation, gloves (to protect your hands), safety glasses, and possibly a mask to protect your lungs from air born spores.
Areas of focus on your plane will likely be the leading edges and nose, the wheel pods, belly and any edge that has the ability to hold moisture or water. The interior focus will be every seam, edge and any fabric that may have been exposed to moisture. Keep an eye on the flooring as well, under the seats and in the cockpit (To assist with reducing the moisture inside we suggest keeping a dehumidifier in the cabin while your plane is parked).
This is a timely process, best to be thought of as meditative one; so when your into your 6th or 7thhour you don’t feel frustrated. Once your plane is clean, consider adding a sealant to the exterior (wax, polymer or ceramic) and to the interior (fabric or leather) which will make it more difficult for spores to attach themselves again.
2019 brings new resolutions, make the interior of your plane one of them.
The benefits of maintaining your interior will provide you with pleasure but also save the need to replace some of the big ticket items like seating, headliner or carpet. We would like to take you through a step by step process to assist an excellent interior detail of your plane.
To begin, use a vacuum with attachments that include one for the floor and under seats and hard to reach places. One for the seats, that is soft enough to ensure no damage is done while you clean out the folds. Then a very soft vacuum brush to vacuum the cockpit instruments making sure you don’t change any switches accidentally. This step is done after the main part of the plane has been detailed. Use a fresh additional brush for the cleaning of the headliner and walls so no dirt moves from one area to the next.
Once the plane has been vacuumed we go onto cleaning the headliner, walls and any storage area. If the headliner is leather then use a leather cleaner and conditioner. Any marks should be taken care of first and all areas should be sealed with a UV protectant. If the headliner is a soft cloth material, a good vacuum and any stains or marks should be dealt with one at a time (ensure you have tested your choice of product on an area that is not noticeable, to ensure there is no bleaching of the fabric). Clean all storage areas with a product that will best suit the material it is made of. A dry-wash product is a competent cleaner for some industrial or hard surface areas. If I am dealing with a painted surface I prefer to use a dry-wash with a little polish, so I can enjoy the extra shine.
Once the headliner is completed turn to the floor, if it is carpet we use a dry extraction method to ensure a deep clean without the use of water, therefore reducing any issue with excessive moisture in the plane. Any stains should be seen to one at a time, again ensuring you try your choice of product out in any area that in not easily noticeable. Once the carpet is cleaned use only clean shoes or shoe covers to continue your work. Now I turn to the seats, all should be vacuumed and all storage areas cleaned and vacuumed as well. Then using an appropriate product clean the entire seat and remove any stains or marks. Be sure to clean the sides, storage areas and under the headrest as well as the armrests. Once the seat is completely clean, each seat should be conditioned and UV proctor applied.
Each seat will take between 20 and 30 minutes to complete. Once the seats are done, turn to any handles or wood inlays as these can be polished at this time. ‘
Still focusing on the main body of the plane complete the interior windows, use an aviation window product. We use Prist and it seems to be the leader in aviation window cleaning. When cleaning the windows maintain a clean soft cloth, changing it as soon as it becomes dirty. Another important thing to remember is to wipe from the top of the window down. Do not clean in circles! The focus on the top to bottom movement will ensure any possible marks on the window will not irritate vision.
Once the storage areas and the main body of the plane has been detailed, we suggest moving into the cockpit. With the floor, headliners, walls and seating completed your focus will be on the doors, cockpit screens, interments and windows. The doors are dealt with as you would the walls of the planes, ensure you open them and clean around the door, polish any wood and hardware. Now attach the soft cockpit brush to the vacuum the screen and instruments. Once this is completed you can use an aviation screen cleaner to clean the screens. (We use Visial two step wipes for this.) The rest of the instruments can be cleaned with a soft microfiber, cotton swabs and a steady hand. Once the cockpit has been cleaned we complete the job with cleaning the cockpit windows. Because we do not want any moisture in or on the cockpit instruments I spray the Prist on a clean microfiber away from the cockpit then I use it on the windows, repeating the movement from top to bottom of the window screen and drying with a second clean microfibre.
As with all products you use on your plane please ensure they were developed to be used in aviation. Items such as cleaners and polishers that are not for aviation may cause static build up which can effect your instruments.
A diligent detail of your planes interior will take you anywhere from 4 up to 10 hours depending on the size and the complexity of the interior. However the hours spent will be well worth your efforts as you enjoy your resolution fulfilled.
Winterization and Aviation Detailing
As many reduce their weekly or monthly flights and temperatures drop, winterizing the interior and the exterior of you personal plane can make spring flying more exciting and provide more confidence in the condition of the plane.
Why worry about interior and exterior before you tuck your plane away? It’s easy! Environmental factors such as weather, UV rays and pollution. December and January average almost 20cm of rain and 87% humidity. All of that humidity gets to your plane and encourages mold and, in some cases algae. We still have spiders and birds to worry about.
When considering your interior, the main challenges will be fighting against mold, spider droppings and surface pollutants that can etch. The depth of detailing will depend on the time you have available and how often the interior is cleaned.
The first thing to get to work on is the seats. There are lots of products for cleaning but make sure you get a protectant for extending the life of the interior. A protectant with UV protection is best. While cleaning the seats, focus in getting into the seams and piping. Those pen marks can come out with a good product and a little elbow grease. Next move to cleaning and protecting the flooring and walls. It takes longer but use the smallest vacuum head you can. Focus on those hard to reach places and corners. This gives you the best shot at getting any hiding spiders and loose spores.
Next will be to focus on the cockpit. We like to take a picture of the switches before we start so we can make sure nothing accidentally gets bumped. Start with cleaning the screens, removing any sitting oil or dirt. This process must be completed with a specialized aviation screen cleaner, as to ensure no damage is done to the screen. Once the cockpit is complete, it is the interior windows next to remove any chance of etching from residue left on them. When cleaning your windows use an aviation window cleaner, such as Prist.
Once your interior is clean and protected you may want to add a dehumidifier to remove excess water from the air. You can select from products like “Damp Trap”, “Dry-Z Air”, or many other portable dehumidifiers options. Make sure to check them fairly often in the beginning. Once you see how much is accumulating, you can adjust how often you need to check. Controlling the humidity will keep mildew at bay and will help keep an interior that looks, feels, and smells great.
We have a previous article on exterior cleaning methods in our website blog and the Patrician. The important thing in exterior winterization is stain removal and sealing. It may take a some elbow grease, a lot of elbow grease if those spider droppings were left on all summer. When spring comes around, your aircraft will look a lot better if you took care of those stains before they became a part of your paint. Sealing with a wax or polymer will keep spider and bird droppings from setting in. It has been our experience that a well sealed aircraft will clean up in as little as 1/3 of the time and product needed.
Treat your exterior canvas cover as well. Putting a water repellant will help keep water from getting to the aircraft. Less water trapped under the cover means it will dry quicker and protect better.
When you go to fly, a quick wipe of the exterior, a quick dusting of the interior, and the windows are all that is needed.
All aviation detailing must be completed with products free of static building properties. The safest way to ensure the right product is to use products developed for aviation detailing. Sea & Sky Eco Detailing offers a range of products including screen cleaning packets. For more information on detailing visit our website blog or drop us an email, we are happy to discuss process and products with you.
How to Hire a Detailer
Plane maintenance can be overwhelming and there may seem like there is not enough time. Detailing, waxing, cleaning, can be a big job that takes time, energy, flexibility and physical strength. A large challenge as most our day is consumed with work, business, clients, running a home, our kids, additional family responsibilities, and the list goes on.
We know that you own a plane to create down time from your busy life style, to spend time alone, or with friends and family, without interruption. Plane ownership allows you to enjoy the journey, and to decide on your destination.
If you are someone who does not have time, interest, or the physical ability to complete all the detailing your plane needs, then hiring a detailer is something you can consider. Taking care of your craft in a timely manner can head off larger issues in the future. Hiring the right detailer can be a challenge. However there are some considerations that may assist you in deciding what services do you need. If you are on a budget you may want to prioritize what kind of services that are most important. Whatever type of detailing you decide to hire out, there are a few things that your detailer should posses.
1. they are insured and incorporated
2. they use products that are developed for aviation
3. they have references you can check
4. they have experience in aviation detailing
5. they are trained in aviation detailing
Firstly lets discuss detailing costs. Will the detailer provide a quote, do they charge per hour, per man hour, or job. Do they have additional charges for products, or materials? These additional charges can make the price of the completed job much higher then anticipated.
Items to consider when looking at an hourly rate, is the number of hours estimated to complete the work, will they call you if the job goes over the estimated time? The best scenario is to have excellent communication between you and your selected detailer. Establish what exactly will be done, the time frame, the products, the process, and problem solving avenues the detailer will take if they come up against challenges.
When hiring a detailer you should be able to see the value in what they are offering. Open communication is the key to gain a better understanding of your requirements and expectations. A good detailer can develop a maintenance plan for you plane, that can support your budget, even if they only complete a small portion of your maintenance for you.
Is your detailer certified in using sealants, are they able to sell you detailing products if you choose to do some of the work yourself, will they show you the process they use? If they are not able to support the above the cost of hiring may be more complicated then need be.
Be realistic about what a detailer can and can’t do for you. Heavily oxidized plane? Hire a detailer. Repair of lifting paint and rust eating through paint will need more then any detailer can provide.
Don’t expect a 25 year old plane to look like new after it has been washed and waxed. Oxidization needs more then a wash and wax. However a wash, wax or polymer can stop more oxidization on your exterior.
If you are uncertain about the products a detailer is using, then either request they use specific products or provide them with the products you want them to use.
Ask the detailer if they work alone or have a crew. If they have a crew that does most of the work, ask the detailer how often they check on their crew during the cleaning process.
Ask if your detailer provides you with feedback on their job and your plane, do they offer any type of report or status updates.
Imagine if the weekend comes and you step into your clean, protected plane and all you need to think about is the sunrises and sunsets you’ll experience and all your adventures.