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Aircraft cleaning: Handcraft still in demand

Clean fleet protects the environment through fuel savings

Even nowadays the cleaning of aircraft is mainly handcraft. Cleaning management on the other side requires comprehensive know-how. For clean airplanes do not only leave a good impression – they considerably save fuel and thus contribute to both environment protection and cost reduction.

When a Boeing 747-400 arrives for external cleaning after 90 days long-haul route operation, a complete cleaning cycle takes eight hours – valuable time during which the aircraft is not available for operation. In case of a short-haul Boeing 737 it still takes four hours every 45 days.

Lufthansa Technik's specialists start with the application of a cleaning agent on soapsud basis via spray lances. After short residence time the dirt is tackled with swabs – just as in the case of a classical car wash. With a water hose, everyday traces and cleaning agent are washed away. A concluding clear water shower takes along the very last spots. Nearly 10.000 liters of water are thus needed for the basic cleaning of a Boeing 747-400.

At Lufthansa Technik all of the slop is absorbed and processed in a modern effluent reprocessing plant. This procedure ensures that no environmental burden remains in the water.

A multifaceted know-how is also required for cleaning management. When can which aircraft on which position be cleansed with minimal interference with operations? State-of-the-art computing facilitates optimal planning. Weekly status reports ensure optimal adherence with schedules, because dirty airplanes are an impertinence not only for passengers. Increased aerodynamic resistance does not only affect fuel consumption but also increases environmental burden and cost.

After thorough testing Lufthansa Technik offers meanwhile dry cleaning for aiplanes as an alternative cleaning procedure. Firstly, specific cleaning agents are used to bedew the aircraft and then rubbed in. After residence time and polishing of the agent, it can be rubbed off together with the released dirt by using special cloths. The procedure does not leave any scratches in the paint. The dirty cloths can be cleansed and reused.

This system has two important advantages. Firstly, unlike in the case of classical cleaning, parallel workings on the aircraft such as maintenance can be conducted, secondly considerable amounts of water are saved. Altogether the time for a cleaning cycle is shortened significantly. Correspondingly Lufthansa Technik's previous test results are positive.

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Cleaning of an Airbus A321-100 in Munich
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The dirt is tackled with swabs
Aircraft cleaning night
Aircraft cleaning takes valuable time