Aircraft Cleaning and Maintenance: Helicopter Cleaning Tips

PT 2 M minute read

This is a post by guest author Stephen Clark, marketing manager of Immaculate Flight, LLC. Stephen was asked to contribute to this blog because of his expertise in aircraft cleaning. Any thoughts expressed below are entirely Stephen’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Universal Weather and Aviation, Inc.

These days, there is a lot of discussion about aircraft care. However, advice is limited for rotor-wing aircraft operators. Although it’s worth noting that many of the cleaning basics remain the same between fixed- and rotor-wing aircraft, helicopter cleaning can actually be a more complicated and time-consuming endeavor.

Fortunately, there are a lot of advantages – from quicker inspections to reduced operating costs – to cleaning helicopters often. But where do you start?

The following are tips to consider when cleaning your helicopter:

1. Know your original equipment manufacturer requirements

We have written it before here: The best place to get started is inside your helicopter’s maintenance manual. Inside you’ll find not only proven methods for cleaning your heli, but also what chemicals are approved for your airframe – a key consideration in reducing the risk of damaging your aircraft.

2. Set a schedule for cleaning your helicopter

How often you need to clean your helicopter depends largely on how often you fly. If your operation is dynamic, such as air medical service or utility operations, it’s usually best to opt for scheduling regular (rather than “as needed”) cleanings. Below is a real-world schedule from an air medical service we work with that has developed a great interval cleaning program:

  • After every flight day – Full interior sanitization with wipe-down of windows, nose, rotor head, large streaks, and areas behind exhaust stacks.
  • Every seven days – Engine deck and transmission sections opening and cleaning to remove dirt, oils, etc.
  • Every 30 days – Full interior and exterior cleaning, with major focus on sections that overlap, as well as engine components, actuators, swash plate, and other sections found behind access panels.
  • Every six months – Full exterior paint sealant to protect the airframe’s paint from salt water and corrosion.

3. Harmonize cleaning with required maintenance tasks

One of the greatest advantages of harmonizing cleaning with required maintenance tasks is that doing so makes it possible to perform scheduled checks and cleaning simultaneously, thus allowing technicians to perform needed actions more quickly and intensively than if the parts were dirty.

4. Learn to get dry

There’s nothing better than taking the soap and brushes to a helicopter after a full day of flying. However, though most agree that wash pits are easier to use, many airports are reducing the use of wash pits due to tightening Environmental Protection Agency regulations regarding waste water. That means that this is the perfect time to begin using a dry wash (also known as a chemical wash) to do exterior cleanings. Although dry washing is a bit more labor-intensive, the good news is that by avoiding water all together, you can eliminate water spots, hand drying, and even the pooling of water inside access panels that, if not dried properly, can lead to corrosion.

Closing thoughts

One takeaway from all of this is that cleaning your helicopter shouldn’t be considered just another chore. Instead, with a bit of planning and consideration, your operation – no matter the type –can find actual cost savings and be on the right path toward looking great all year long!


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