Aircraft Cleaning and Maintenance: Leather, Sun and Funds

PT 3 M minute read
Aircraft Cleaning and Maintenance: Leather, Sun and Funds

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.

If your aircraft has leather seats onboard, you already understand how difficult they are to maintain and keep looking fresh. Thanks to the never-ending danger from pen marks, liquid spills and children, keeping your investments looking great can be somewhat of a challenge. But if you utilize a couple of the following tips, you can ensure these pricey thrones stay looking great well beyond your expectations, no matter what you face!

1. Clean and recondition often

If you can’t remember the last time your seats were cleaned and reconditioned, now is the time to start. By developing a habit of cleaning and reconditioning your seats on a monthly basis, you’ll be sure to remove any accumulated dirt and body oils from the leather before they have a chance to build up on the surface, resulting in discolorations and drying to the hide. Not only will your seats look bright and supple year-round, you’ll actually be extending the useful life of the hide, saving you money, too!

2. Take care of spills immediately

It happens to the best of us. A seemingly smooth flight is abruptly interrupted by turbulence, and the end result is a cup of fine liquid raining down on a leather seat. However, have no fear, since many hides are designed not to soak in liquids immediately. The first thing you should do, though, is grab a clean absorbent sponge or soft cloth and blot the area to soak up any remaining liquid. From there, ensure the area dries completely to avoid any further issues. If you’re able, be sure to take out seat cushions to ensure liquids haven’t pooled underneath the seating area, as well, since these liquids (especially carbonated sodas) can speed rusting of seat tracks if left for too long.

3. Be ready

Another way to ensure your leather is protected from disaster is to keep a small leather cleaning kit ready onboard just in case. There are some commercially available kits you can buy at many pilot supply stores; however, many of these kits are large and take up valuable space. Instead, you could opt for utilizing a small plastic bag with a 3-oz. hairspray bottle filled with your cleaning chemical and a clean towel. This kit can be easily stowed in a drawer or closet, and you’re still getting the same chemicals without adding more bulk to your aircraft!

4. Close your window shades

Although an afterthought for many crews after a long day of flying, the simple act of developing a healthy habit of closing your aircraft’s window shades whenever parked can save your leather seats from fading. Just like your skin, leather is porous, so the sun’s Ultra Violet (UV) rays penetrate the leather’s surface and begin to damage them almost immediately. Even more, if your flights take place during summer months, at higher elevations, and even at polar locations, you may be causing even more damage while your aircraft is parked due to the UV intensity found at these locations.

5. Speaking of window shades

Not only will your leather seats enjoy a break from the sun’s harmful rays when you close the shades, your aircraft’s cabin will also be kept cooler in general thanks to blocking out the sun! In exchange, you’ll also burn less fuel, keeping the cabin temperature hospitable thanks to needing less time to cool the space.This is especially true for operators who utilize an Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) for cabin comfort.

Take, for instance, a Cessna Citation Sovereign: By running the APU for just one hour less, a single aircraft operation can yield savings of up to 19 gallons per hour, or $104.50*. With that much saved, it’s easy to see that any reduction in usage can save you substantial amounts in jet fuel and maintenance costs throughout the year.

Caring for your aircraft’s leather shouldn’t be a difficult process. But not only will taking into consideration some of these simple tips save you money, but also your leather seats will remain in great-looking condition well into the future.

If, after reading this piece, you realize your aircraft’s leather seats need a divine intervention, not just a cleaning, stay tuned, as the next time I’ll be talking about ways you can restore leather to its past glory without breaking the bank!

*Assumes 19 gallons per hour @ $5.50 per gallon Jet-A price.

** Citation Sovereign’s APU fuel burn statistic from June 2008 S&D Document.


If you have any questions about this article or want to discuss proper maintenance for your aircraft’s leather seats, contact me at

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