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Aviation

Home and dry

By changing the way that planes in the fleet are cleaned, SAS has taken a major step forward in reducing costs and looking after the environment.

If you think about cleaning an aircraft, you probably imagine something like a ­really big car wash inside a hangar, right? And you wouldn’t be far off. Traditionally, keeping aircraft clean and sparkling has involved lots of soap and water – around 2,500 liters of water to wash one A320.

Since 2017, however, SAS has been sending its aircraft to a dry cleaner of sorts. The airline can now wash an A320 using just 60 to 80 liters of precious H2O. The technique is called dry wash, and it’s a real revolution when it comes to keeping the SAS fleet neat.

“We’re very pleased with the decision to switch from wet wash to dry wash,” says Lars Andersen Resare, Head of Environment & CSR at SAS. “It’s a method that fits well with our forward-­thinking ethos.”

Why is it forward-thinking? To start with, dry washing is a much more sustainable way of cleaning airplanes. The amount of water SAS now saves across the entire fleet is staggering. Cutting down on water used by up to 98% has an even greater impact when it comes to long-haul aircraft – using the traditional method, for example, it takes roughly 13,000 liters to clean an A330.

It all starts with the cleaning agent – and there are several on the market these days. SAS uses Ecoshine, which is first applied, then wiped off with a special wet cloth. It is 96% biodegradable and has a number of other benefits. Cleaning with Ecoshine polishes the aircraft and protects it from static. This helps keep dirt away and gives the airplane better aerodynamics, reducing fuel burn in the process. The protective polish also means that the typical repainting schedule can be delayed by a few years – another thumbs up for sustainability, efficiency and cost-savings.

“If you’re an airline that’s serious about making adjustments in order to meet sustainability goals like we are, then dry wash is a much better way to clean your aircraft. It cuts down on water use massively and reduces emissions during flight. Dry washing is a clear win-win,” adds Andersen Resare.

Dry washing is done entirely by hand because the process requires flexibility and dexterity, and there are no machines that can do the job. More staff are needed and it takes longer than a conventional water wash too – in total up to 18 hours on a wide-body aircraft. Despite the added labor hours on any given wash, though, in the long run, SAS comes out ahead because the aircraft stays cleaner for longer. This, in turn means that it requires fewer visits to the cleaners – just two washes per year, plus an additional belly clean (the part of an aircraft that gets the dirtiest) compared to four washes a year using water.

Better still, aircraft maintenance can be carried out while a dry wash is happening. This isn’t possible during a wet wash as soapy water could damage sensitive equipment and aircraft must be tightly sealed. That means less downtime for the fleet and less congestion in busy hangars. Maintenance teams can now coordinate with the cleaning teams to maximize what they can accomplish when a given aircraft goes into the hangar for service.
“Dry washing fits seamlessly with our sustainability efforts,” says Andersen ­Resare. “At SAS, we’re always striving to find new ways to improve our service, and this means being fully committed to all the different ways in which we can push our sustainability. That includes things that travelers may normally not even see or be aware of, like dry washing. But it’s no less important.”

Last edited: November 14, 2018

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