On Fridays, the car wash in my neighborhood is always full of young men getting their cars date-ready. Here at Southwest, we are the LUV airline, but impressing the ladies isn’t the only thing on our minds when we wash our planes.
To get an airplane ready for a wash, Appearance Technicians pull on their big water-repellant suits and drag out the hoses. Mechanics position the airplane and the Appearance Techs begin to cover up its most sensitive parts. Just getting set up for the wash takes longer than it takes me to wash my car…of course, I don’t get my car very clean. Once the plane is in position, the jets shoot water two stories in the air. The Appearance Techs begin scrubbing with giant brushes on the ground and up on the crane.
Every inch of the plane is carefully de-crud-ified, but we have to pay particular attention to the plane’s red bellies. That’s because hydraulic fluid from the landing gear runs back across the bottom of the plane. Getting the fluid off of the plane takes special kinds of soap and a ton of elbow grease.
Why do we dedicate hours of Maintenance time to wash each airplane? It’s not all about our good looks. Having a clean airplane means that inspections are accurate. Mechanics and their Quality Control counterparts, Inspectors, need to see every square inch of the airplane so they can ensure that it’s being properly maintained. But don’t be fooled, all this Maintenance cooperation is totally aimed at impressing you, too.