Category | Aircraft Care

Interior Care Tips

Whether your interior is brand-new or has been serving you for years, it’s always a good time to give your aircraft interior a little TLC. Will Perez, Wipaire’s interiors manager, has the following tips:
  1. Leather components should be conditioned at least every six months. Leather can dry out over time, and conditioning keeps your leather soft and supple for years. Additionally, if your aircraft is stored outside, sun shades can help prevent drying due to sun exposure.
  2. Do not spot clean leather. This can lead to color differences between the spot-cleaned area and the rest of the leather.
  3. Plastic panels should be cleaned with a soft cloth material and a mild detergent at least once a month.
  4. Fabric materials should be vacuumed regularly. This includes sidewalls, drapes and seats.
  5. Carpet should be vacuumed regularly. It’s best not to attempt to wet clean carpets yourself. When it’s time to really get them clean it’s best to trust the professionals who will ensure that the flame retardant properties of the carpet aren’t damaged during cleaning.
As for products, there is a wide variety available, but look for gentle cleaners and aviation-specific products. One brand with a wide variety of aviation products is Celeste, which offers high-quality non-toxic, non-corrosive products for every use you can imagine. Happy flying!

Touch-Ups to Transformations: Paint Refinishing by Wipaire

One of the reasons Wipaire is an excellent destination for aircraft services is our experienced paint refinishing department. By having top-notch facilities and expert paint technicians on staff we are able to coordinate all of our departments to provide customers with a convenient service destination.

Our paint department is equipped with both the tools and expertise to complete a wide range of projects including full refinishing projects, paint touch-ups, and float and modification paint scheme matching.

Wipaire’s world-class paint department employs state-of-the-art equipment to ensure not only an award-winning finish, but also employee and environmental safety. Our paint team employs industry best practices along with things like an EPA-compliant wastewater system to meet or exceed hazardous substance handling and disposal requirements.

The Wipaire paint department has worked on a variety of projects including government contracts, unique custom paint schemes, decal application and contracting with airbrush artists for truly remarkable customizations. A standout example of this is the amazing ocean themed Twin Otter that was completed in August of 2013.

We have recently been working to expand our paint capabilities and work force to continue to develop a stellar team. Recognizing that aircraft painting is a skilled job, we have made investments in personnel, equipment, and facilities in order to meet the changing expectations of our customers.

We hope to see your aircraft in our paint hangar some day!

Cleaning Up the Grease Confusion

When I was asked to write this article, I thought “everyone should know this…” but it turns out that grease incompatibility has not always been a problem. In the early days of machine lubrication there were only a few types of lubricants and most were thickened with various clays and soaps. If a lithium and calcium soap grease were mixed you would only get a change in viscosity as they were considered compatible. But if either were mixed with clay-based grease you could get separation of the lubricants from the thickener, which in turn could cause a failure of the grease but it generally was not considered incompatible, just not good practice. However, as the technology in lubricants advanced the manufacturers began experimenting with refined products and more exotic thickeners to enhance performance. This step forward was a great improvement in lubrication but could easily be compromised if the maintenance staff did not understand the properties of the new lubricants. Mixing grease quickly became a practice to avoid. Over time avoidance of mixing greases was accepted as a standard practice but it was not understood by the maintenance technician. They simply followed the rule “Do not mix greases.”

Fast forward to present day and mixing greases, while well understood, has become a near impossible task for an aviation maintenance technician to confidently do. There are too many chemical variables to consider, and, as aircraft maintenance technicians, our skills are not in the precise understanding of the chemistry with the newer complex greases. So we generally fall back on the standard motto: “Do not mix greases.”

While it is acceptable today to mix certain greases, it is generally easier and more common to simply replace or switch greases. If it becomes necessary to replace grease types there are a few precautions you should take to minimize the cross contamination that may result in a component failure.

  • When switching or replacing greases:
  • Remove all traces of original greases.
  • Clean the component thoroughly.
  • Inspect the component for signs of wear or damage.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding the use of the new grease.
  • Check the component condition after its first use to ensure the new grease is performing properly.

In summary, when in doubt about grease it’s best to make a clean switch to protect your aircraft from unpredictable chemical interactions.

A Whole New Animal: This Custom Cessna 340 was Worth the Wait

Bruce, an owner-operator with a low-time 1980 Cessna 340, spent several months looking for someone to modernize and refresh the interior and exterior of his airplane. He had completed a major panel upgrade and was ready to make the rest of the aircraft similarly impressive. This makeover would encompass stripping the airplane and repainting it as well as completely refurbishing the interior.

Having seen some of Wipaire’s Caravan interiors, Bruce elected to contact Wipaire as he was evaluating options for services providers. After several interactions, Bruce was understandably anxious about the significant work scope and elected to visit Wipaire in person last November. “At the time, I was looking at several different shops. Everyone else was trying to sell me a cheap job, and I wanted a quality job.” To discuss the interior project, he met with Will Perez, our interiors manager.

“Will did a phenomenal job of diagnosing what I wanted,” Bruce commented. “He and Jim (Halfen, interiors shop supervisor) were able to transform the sketchy ideas I provided into a spectacular project. Within about an hour, we had settled on the concept that was used in the airplane.”

Bruce’s first concern was durability and how the interior would show wear. With bases in Minnesota, Nebraska, and Colorado, he frequently flies with his dogs and cat, and didn’t want a high-maintenance interior that would require constant upkeep. He knew he wanted darker colors that wouldn’t show wear easily, but didn’t have specific selections made. “Will showed me some darker colors of leather, and came up with the idea for the alligator-embossed leather for an accent. He and Jim also suggested a flecked carpet that doesn’t show dirt. They were alerting me to things that I wouldn’t have noticed on my own, which was fantastic.”

Will added, “This project was just fun. It was outside the standard material selections, and we really enjoyed working with Bruce to develop something unique. He identified with creating something that no one else had, and that’s always a lot of fun.”

While the aircraft was a well-kept, low-time airplane, several design features were beginning to reveal the airplane’s age. The seat upholstery style was outdated, so Will worked with Bruce to define what look and functionality was desired. “We made the seats close to two inches wider, while changing the headrest and seat back design. The result is a more streamlined and modern appearance that also provides more room. Since Bruce routinely travels with his family in this airplane, comfort and function are key considerations,” Will stated.
The seats feature a vintage-look leather that has rugged yet modern “lived in” look that doesn’t show wear easily. The seat back incorporates the alligator-embossed leather, which is also used on the sidewalls to maintain continuity throughout the interior. The headliner was refreshed with a neutral color that offsets the darker material choices and creates a refined atmosphere with plenty of light.

“I couldn’t be more pleased with it. It’s a real head-turner on the ramp.”

While Will’s team was updating the seats with new foam and covers, Wipaire’s paint team was working on a masterpiece of their own. “The airplane had a typical RAM paint scheme,” Bruce noted. “I wanted to get away from the dated horizontal lines and color. I met with Bill Jones (paint shop supervisor) and he put me in contact with Craig Barnett of Scheme Designers. Craig asked me what I didn’t like and had me send him some examples of airplanes that I did like during the development process.” Scheme Designers zeroed in on a design that Bruce liked and then Bill helped translate the scheme into actual paint color selections. “Bill sat down with me and went through paint chips. We would pick a few options and then go outside to see what they would actually look like on the airplane when it was on the ramp. I provided about 0.5% of the information, and Craig and Bill provided the other 99.5%.”

As with all paint jobs, proper stripping of old paint and prepping for the new finish makes all the difference in the quality of the end product. This means taking the airplane to bare metal and scrutinizing any imperfections or blemishes that may be discovered. “A good paint job on an airplane can last 15-20 years. If you don’t take the time to address any imperfections on the airframe, they’re going to be hidden under paint for years and may continue to deteriorate underneath otherwise nice-looking paint,” noted Bill.

“Bill warned me that we’d find some things when we peeled the airplane down. Even though it was well-maintained and didn’t have many hours, the airplane still had areas to be repaired,” Bruce remembered. “When Bill and his team found something, the communications were absolutely second to none. The blemishes were circled in color and included the description and price to fix them. It was very detailed and professional.” With Bruce’s exacting eye for quality, repairs to the airframe were made by Wipaire’s maintenance department, body work was performed by the paint team, and the avionics department addressed several antennae in need of repair. Bruce added, “I know the difference between concealing issues vs. the long-term benefit of addressing them. This airplane is new in every respect, and well worth the investment in time and money.”

Of the final product, Bruce says, “I couldn’t be more pleased with it. It’s a real head-turner on the ramp.” Looking at the pictures of interior and exterior, we think you’ll agree!