Cleaning is one thing, proper cleaning is another, and pilot training may help
Do we need to add aircraft cleaning to our pilot training curriculums? If you believe a warning from the FAA, possibly yes. The FAA is warning pilots, mechanics, and aircraft cleaners about the hidden dangers of disinfecting aircraft when it is done near sensitive equipment, wiring, and other high risk components.
In a November 4. 2020 airworthiness bulletin, the FAA says that even though several disinfectants effectively kill the Covid-19 virus, only a few are suitable for use in aircraft, and even those should be used in minimal and localized applications. Though aircraft disinfection is not considered “maintenance” per the FAA regulations, aircraft owners and operators should treat the process as they would any other procedure that has the potential to affect aircraft airworthiness.
The FAA is especially concerned with fogging and misting applications because of the risk of penetrating problem areas, such as underlying structures or fan-cooled electronics. Running aircraft ventilation will typically worsen this situation, so caution must be used.
The recommended application includes electrostatic spraying over fogging because of the increased directional control; using either technique with the ventilation system off will reduce risks. As always, check with your airframe manufacturer to learn the best practices for your specific aircraft – there are always exceptions to the rules.
Maintenance personnel will also want to increase corrosion inspections in any areas that are treated with disinfectant. Even better, avoid any treatment that will result in pooled liquids, especially on the flight deck. Liquids can seep into flight deck switches and seals, causing electrical shorts in the short-term and unexpected corrosion in the long-term.
We are living in uncharted territory as we try to resume our flying careers during this crisis. Including an informational lesson about proper disinfection in your pilot training curriculum might save time, money, and even lives in the future. A little extra care and planning now will undoubtedly be worth the effort.