Keep it Clean

Photo credit: Zach Chipman

Flying is a task that takes a lot of focus and attention. After a long flight you are likely quite tired and the last thing you want to do is to spend more time around your airplane. But if you care about the longevity and performance of your flying machine, you may want to stick around for a few minutes after your flight.

Dirt can cause corrosion, which can lead to expensive maintenance down the line, and bugs can fuse with the paint, creating pits in the critical leading edges of the airfoils. While dirt is definitely not as hard on your airplane's performance as ice accumulation, you may lose a few knots of airspeed if your airplane is really dirty.

Perhaps of even greater concern than the performance of the airplane is that dirt can reduce the effectiveness of the antennae, which are often mounted underneath the airplane where oil residue accumulates from the engine exhaust. Caked with dirt or oil, the antennae won't be transmit or receive their signals as readily as if they were kept clean.

It is best to use airplane-specific cleaning products from companies such as AeroShell, Simple Green and Jet Stream when you clean the main structures of the airplane as some automobile products can be corrosive. If you have deicing equipment installed on the airplane, check with the manufacturer to find out what products they recommend.

It is also very important to clean the windshield properly as a scratched or pitted windshield will impede your forward visibility, particularly when the sun is in front of you. To learn more about the intricacies of cleaning your windshield, click here.

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Pia Bergqvist joined FLYING in December 2010. A passionate aviator, Pia started flying in 1999 and quickly obtained her single- and multi-engine commercial, instrument and instructor ratings. After a decade of working in general aviation, Pia has accumulated almost 3,000 hours of flight time in nearly 40 different types of aircraft.
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