Care, cleaning and maintenance of interiors — seats, carpets, and furniture — is something of a different world. Where airframes, avionics, props, and power all have detailed maintenance instructions and procedures, we’re often on our own when it comes to the part of the airplane our most-important clients see every day. Asking experts — suppliers and maintainers — how to keep interior components in good shape is pretty much the only way to get decent answers.
As with most things aviation, interior maintenance should follow the No. 1 rule for safe flight: Never let a bad trend continue. Whether it’s a spill, an ink spot, a crack in the leather, a loose seat track, a tiny water leak at the faucet, or a cabinet that shakes, waiting will not make the ultimate fix any easier.
Having fussy crews is a real blessing here, but cockpit crews rarely concern themselves with things that don’t make the aircraft fly (or not fly). Cabin crews need to be cultivated and trained — by us — so that they keep us informed of those little squawks, before they become expensive ones.
Routine cleaning, vacuuming, and spot cleaning, is the first line of defense. Ink, once dry, is difficult to remove; a quick look after every flight is your only recourse; and an “ink stick” will get rid of the ink, if applied in time. Vacuuming after every flight will preserve the carpet, help find trouble, and save time in the long run. If your aircraft is one that follows best practices and keeps a spare set of carpets, you’ll spend a lot less time cleaning the ones in the aircraft than you will changing them.
Care and cleaning
Tariq Deir, director of operations for Jet Connections at the London Oxford Airport, offers the following advice, “When steam cleaning the carpet while it is still installed on the airframe, it is difficult to judge how much water is being retained; the risk of rust or corrosion becomes much higher. We recommend either waiting for the aircraft to go into maintenance, where we can perform a full carpet shampoo with steam cleaners and detergent, and give sufficient time for the carpet to fully dry. If the carpet cannot be removed, we shampoo the carpet by hand using an enzyme-based product that organically breaks down soil and stains. This allows our team to control exactly how much liquid is applied to an area, whilst taking a minimal amount of solution on board the airframe.”
Deir goes on to say, “Corrosion is very difficult to spot and is commonly caused by moisture retention. After a spillage or spot stain, the crew may panic and use any nearby liquid-based substance to remove the stain. This results in the carpet’s absorbing far too much of the liquid. We recommend using a foam-based germicidal cleaner, sprayed directly on the infected area; it lifts the stain from the carpet fibers, where the stain can be slowly wiped away with a plain towel. This results in minimal or no water retention.”
General wear and tear
Aircraft carpet can cost $2,000 per square yard, and Deir notes that “the most common cause for carpet replacement is the general wear and tear in high traffic areas, such as the entry steps and areas around the galley. I would recommend either cutting out a number of mats from the same material as the carpet and placing them in such areas, or buying a number of decorative rugs. Area rugs are intended to absorb the bulk of the wear and the dirt — and they do. Replacing a mat or rug is inexpensive vs. a whole carpet; as a bonus, it requires no downtime.” He added that you might consider a similar strategy for couches and chairs, using covers and pads where possible.
Deir warns that uninformed or inattentive crew can contribute to the problem: “Other hidden surprises are floorboard deterioration or even floor beam cracks, results of carrying a heavy load or perhaps storing it in an area not best suited for such weight. Age also plays a common factor along with metal fatigue and dissimilar metal contact, all of which can only be revealed once the carpet, panels, etc., have been removed.”
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