Cleaning Your Challenger

What you use to clean the various components of your Challenger and how you do it are important. The following describes the methods and products used by Adventure Aviation.

1. General Washing:

I use a bucket of warm water and any good car washing product. Before beginning a wash job, use a bread sack or something similiar to cover the aircleaner to avoid getting it wet or getting water in the engine. Use a soft mitt or cloth and wash it much as you would your car. Do be gentle.

Do not wash the Lexan other than letting a little soapy water splash on it and do not allow any of the soap to dry on the surface. Rinse thoroughly as you wash, not just when finished. Use a large volume of water, like from a hose, but do not use a lot of pressure. Dry as you go with a large bath towel.

Right after a wash job, I run the engine until the temperatures come up somewhat. This dries it and evaporates any humidity that may have gotten inside the engine.

At least once a year, usually when I am doing my Annual Condition Inspection, I wash out the bottom inside of the aircraft. Since I always use Dacron tape (First Aid type; not masking tape, a paper product) for taping the sharp edges under the fabric during construction, I have no concern about it getting wet inside.

I use some kind of car-wash brush on a handle to wash as far as I can reach, using lots of soapy water. I leave the doors off and allow the interior to air dry after rinsing well with clear water.

During construction, I also put in several seaplane drain grommets in the bottom of the fuselage. If you have no drains, take a small pencil soldering iron and burn a few holes in the bottom of the fuselage fabric.

2. Cleaning Lexan:

Lexan is a much softer product than the Plexiglass used in certificated aircraft and will scratch rather easily. Over time it is unavoidable that minute scratches will occur in the surface of the Lexan from cleaning.

As long as these lines are straight and not swirled, the Lexan will be quite useable for a long time. If the lines are swirled, even though you can see through it quite well in ordinary light, you will most likely have a difficult time seeing through it when the sun strikes it directly.

To get a long life from your Lexan, you should use a specific procedure and specific products to clean it. First, never use shop towels or any paper towel product for cleaning. Shop towels, even though cleaned, often have small contaminants that will scratch the Lexan.

Paper towels are a wood pulp product that will also scratch Lexan. When you are ready to start cleaning, go buy a dozen cloth baby diapers -- you know, the kind that you have to change. Keep these in a big Ziplock bag so they do not become contaminated.

I use a spray can of Lemon Pledge for a cleaning agent. This is a good cleaner and also has an anti-static agent to help repel dust. Just spray part of the Lexan lightly with it, but try to avoid getting much on the painted surfaces of the aircraft. I usually do the windshield first and then each door.

Now for the procedure, . . .

Do not wipe the Pledge off in a circular motion as this causes swirls. You will not be able to see these swirls until they accumulate over time, but when the sun strikes the Lexan, you will be unable to see through it. The Lexan will be usable with a lot of minute scratching from cleaning as long as the lines are straight.

After applying a light mist of pledge, fold a diaper over several times, then take one wipe from the top center of the windshield straight down. Then turn the diaper for the next pass. Next, start from the top and wipe downward next to the windshield rear tube.

This will leave pie-shaped portions of the windshield remaining; use the same procedure for them. Wipe in only one direction, never two directions. Use a clean area of the diaper for each initial pass as that will pick up the dirt.

After you have gone over the entire panel and removed the dirt, use a clean diaper to polish it, using the same pattern. Start from the same places and cover the same areas as closely as possible. Always use this same pattern.

Do the doors using the same method.

3. Cleaning the Prop:

The engine exhaust passes over the prop and leaves a residue. I clean this residue at the end of each flight.

Just take a rag or paper towels and wipe it down, or better still, carefully spray a little Pledge on it and then wipe it down. Use the same procedure for a wood or composite prop.

4. Tail Surfaces:

The exhaust from the engine also passes over the tail surfaces of the aircraft. These should be cleaned immediately at the end of each flight, especially, the right stabilizer and elevator.

If this is done after each flight, it is easy to do. But if the residue is left there for awhile, after several flights it gets rather hard to remove. I use 409 and a rag or good paper towels.

5. Painted Surfaces:

I use Poly Tone for my paint jobs and once a year I give these surfaces special attention.

Start with a good wash job. Then wipe down well with rags using a good wax and grease remover such as Acryli-Clean DX 330 from PPG.

This or an equivalent is available from auto body and paint supply stores. A careful inspection of the surface should be made. If necessary, treat small areas with a light rubbing compound and follow with a complete wax job.

I use straight Carnuba Wax but other products will do.

Now, this is what we do at Adventure Aviation, but certainly this is not the only good way to do it.

George Hurt