Professional aircraft detailing keeps aircraft, from jets to helicopters, in top condition. Professional detailing maintains aircraft and prevents any larger (and more expensive) issues from coming up.
We wrote this article for people interested in the world of aviation detailing. Maybe you are a professional detailer interested in aircraft or completely new to the craft. Read our guide to professional aircraft detailing and learn how you can make a living out of it.
What does an aircraft detailer do?
Aircraft detailers clean the exterior and interior of an aircraft to restore it to like-new condition. Aircraft detailing businesses work for corporate and private aircraft owners and operators.
Like any detailing job, aircraft detailing requires specialist knowledge, tools, and products to complete it to a professional standard.
While you don’t have to be certified to be an aircraft detailing professional, you should still consider specialist training. Why? Permanent damage can be done if the wrong chemicals are used to clean the plane. For example, using ammonia-based glass cleaner on the aircraft’s windows can cause them to crack, potentially requiring replacement.
As an aircraft detailer, you must follow requirements set by the Federal Aviation Administration. This includes the use of aviation-grade and -approved cleaning products and insurances required specifically for aircraft.
What services should detailers include in aircraft detailing?
Airplane detailing services are split into two categories: exterior and interior. First you need to decide whether you will offer both types of services or specialize in one. Interior detailing can be very labor intensive, but can reap big rewards. And by offering both, you can provide your customers with a one-stop shop for all their aircraft detailing needs.
Exterior Aircraft Detailing Services:
- Exterior wash. De-bug all leading edges before the actual wash. Decide whether you will give the aircraft a wet or a dry wash. Many professional detailers choose dry cleaning methods. (Wet washing can cause damage to landing-gear component seals and corrosion to the electrical connectors.)
- Belly de-grease. Clean the belly of the aircraft by hand with a specialist cleaner to remove the grease. (Grease can damage the paintwork if left as is.)
- Compounding and wax. Remove old wax, paint oxidation, and contaminants with a machine buffer for the compounding process. Apply wax to restore shine.
- Metal polish. Remove scratches, pitting, and hazing from the metal surfaces with high-speed buffers to leave a mirror-like shine.
- Clean the boots with specialist cleaning products.
- Detail the spinners with specialist cleaning products.
- Paint care. Remove oxidation from the paint’s surface and restore shine with high-speed buffers. Apply an aviation-approved sealant to restore the paint. Sealant protects the paint from UV damage and oxidation. (This paint care treatment can is typically performed once per year.)
Interior Aircraft Detailing Services:
- Interior vacuum. Vacuum all carpets, including in the cockpit and the entryway.
- Clean carpet and apply spot treatment (as needed).
- Clean windows with aviation window cleaner.
- Cabin detail. Wipe down all surfaces, seats, sidewalls, and headline. Clean the tray-tables and check the seatbelts for stains. Clean seats and move them into the recline position. Tidy and organize blankets and pillows as necessary.
- Clean and recondition the aircraft’s seating, as required.
- Galley clean. Wipe down all surfaces, including the fronts and edges of drawers and cabinets. Clean the coffee and water pots and emply the trash.
- Cockpit clean. Wiped down the inside of the windscreen, sidewalls, and flat surfaces. Remove any trash.
- Lavatory clean. Clean and wipe down all surfaces, including the toilet bowl, mirror, sink, light fixtures, and walls. Empty the trash.
How much does it cost to detail a plane?
Aircraft detailing prices are typically determined by the size of the plane. Most businesses offer menu-style pricing for the exterior, then charge extra for add-ons. (An add-on could be cleaning the spinners.) But the scope is huge and will vary greatly depending on a number of factors.
An exterior wash will start at around $100 for a light aircraft (ie: Cessna) and up to $600 for a large jet. The price goes up from there. For example, detailers typically price a small engine polish at $275 and a large jet at $2,500. Any specialist add-ons, like cleaning the boots or spinners, will be added to the top of the starting price.
Some aircraft detailing businesses will offer exterior details exclusively. If you offer interiors, you can expect to charge $75+ for a small turboprop, and $350+ for a large jet. However, the plane’s cleanliness and the work required will determine the price.
For a cabin to be entirely detailed, as an alternative to refurbishment, you could be looking at thousands of dollars. This type of job involves the removal of seats and brightwork. It could take days to complete.
Some aircraft detailing businesses offer monthly price plans, so that customers can maintain their aircraft year-round and benefit from a cheaper rate.
How much does an aircraft detailer make?
According to ZipRecruiter, the average salary for an aircraft detailer is $28,000 per year. But, if you start your own aircraft detailing business, there’s much more money to be made. That’s because the start-up and running costs are relatively low and the return per job (although labor intensive) can be very high. You may also choose to run a mobile aircraft detailing business, which will help to keep your costs down.
How can you make more money detailing planes?
If you want to make more money detailing planes, you should take advantage of technology. If you utilize business software designed specifically for detailing professionals, you can work more efficiently, look more professional, and generate higher revenues.
With a software like Mobile Tech RX, you can build accurate and consistent estimates for every job. You can quickly come up with customized estimates and charge the right amount based on the work required. The Mobile Tech RX detailing app can help you build packages and price additional services and add-ons to keep your hourly labor rate high. This is how it works:
First, you create your base packages in your account and set your hourly rate. When you’re ready to price a job, all you have to do is select which aircraft detailing package makes most sense. Then you can walk around the aircraft with your customer and add on additional services (like cleaning excessive stains). You can charge your additional service variables by the aircraft’s size, by the hour, or at a flat rate. (An exterior wash might be charged by size, a belly de-grease by the hour, and spinners at a flat rate.)
Showing your customer a detailed, line-by-line estimate of your services on your phone or tablet will make you look more professional than ever.
Mobile Tech RX is the country’s number one management software for detailing professionals. To learn how it can help you make more money and grow your aircraft detailing business, try it now for free.