How Not to Clean an Airplane

How Not to Clean an Airplane


I woke up this morning thinking about a friend of mine that was flying along a river at low altitude.  He was not the pilot of the aircraft, but I believe that he was egging the pilot on.  After all, this kind of flying is fun, the problem with it is that it is also very dangerous.  In the case of my friend, they ran into a zip line.  I’m sure they didn’t see it until it was too late.  It killed my friend and the pilot of the aircraft.

There are many old saying that we use in aviation like, “it’s better to be on the ground wishing you were in the air then to be in the air wishing you were on the ground”, “keep the shiny side up and the dirty side down” and “there are no old bold pilots”.  Yet many of us, being young and not very smart, have done things in an airplane that could have ruined the rest of our lives.

As a young pilot many years ago, a friend of mine and I were flying a twin engine Beech Baron from Wichita to Dodge City Kansas.   We worked for an air ambulance company located in Wichita.  We were on our way to Dodge City to crew a King Air that was used to transport critical care patients from smaller towns to Dodge City for medical help.

When we got to the airport for our flight I had noticed that the aircraft needed a good cleaning.  The preflight and our flight went smoothly, that is, until we decided to wash the aircraft.  I had seen a water sprinkler system used by farmers to irrigate their fields along our route of flight.  The irrigation sprinkler system was in full bloom with water spaying every were in the field.  You guessed it, with the gear up, I level off about three feet above the ground heading straight for the irrigation sprinklers.  We were low enough and got close enough to the sprinkler system that we would be in the water that was spraying out of the sprinklers.  Everything was going well, we had no problem holding altitude, heading, and the airplane was getting washed off.  We were accomplishing what we had set out to do, clean the airplane.  We flew down the full length of the irrigation sprinkler system, then suddenly, out of no were, there appeared a large stream of water coming out the end of the system.  It looked like a stream of water coming out of a firemen’s hose.  We had no time to avoid it, when the stream of water hit the airplane you could feel the aircraft move sideways in the air and start to lose altitude.  I don’t know how I saved the plane, I think it was from instinct, but we were very fortunate that I was able to keep her flying and get away from the ground.

The rest of the flight to Dodge City went very smoothly at a much higher altitude, with very little talking.  Remember the saying, “There are no bold pilots”, believe it, it’s true.  We survived this incident but it could have just as easily gone the other way.

One more old saying, “A good pilot uses his superior knowledge so that he doesn’t have to use his superior flying skills”.

By David Hoover, Owner of Great Plains Enterprises, LLC,
Retired B767 Captain from ABX Air Inc. (formally known as  Airborne Express Airlines)
Airline Transport Pilot Certificate, Flight Instructor Certificates, Ground Instructor Certificates, Volunteer FAASTeam Representative
typed in B-767, B-757, DC-9, CV-600, and CV-640

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