How do you clean and make a huge Airbus A380 sparkle in a city where water is such a precious resource and literally no rainfall is expected in June? That’s the question that Emirates has found an innovative answer to, on a day that marks World Environment Day.
By using a special ‘aircraft drywash’ technique, the Dubai-based airline has managed to save 11 million litres of water a year, cleaning its huge fleet of 260 aircraft. It’s completely different to the traditional method of cleaning an aircraft – which is pretty much like cleaning a car.
Emirates estimates that 9,500 litres of water are used to clean a Boeing 777 aircraft the old fashioned way. Even more water is needed to wash an Airbus A380 – more than 11,300 litres of water. It’s a water intensive process, which sees’s high-pressure water cleaners used to scrub off the dirt and grime that long-haul aircraft quickly accumulate.
But a spokesperson for the airline explains that cleaning an aircraft isn’t just about keeping it looking pristine and shiny. Layers of dirt on the aircraft surface can make it less aerodynamic and increases the amount of fuel needed to fly from A to B.
Since 2016 However, Emirates has been trialling a new technique that saves a significant amount of water. It’s dubbed the ‘aircraft dry wash’ technique in which a liquid cleaning product is applied to the entire surface of the aircraft. Once it’s dry, 15 engineers use microfiber cloths to remove the cleaning product – along with all the dirt and grime.
Nearly 12 hours later and the process is complete. Once finished, the aircraft is left with a fine protective film that protects it from gathering more dirt – saving the need to clean the aircraft as often. The hope is to reduce the number of times an aircraft needs to be cleaned per year down from the five annual washes needed with the traditional water technique.
Oh, and there’s another advantage which will be good for Emirates’ bottom line. The dry wash process can be done in conjunction with other engineering and maintenance work. Meaning that an aircraft doesn’t have to be taken out of service so often.
In celebration of World Environment Day, Emirates has highlighted a number of other ways it is trying to be more environmentally conscious. Only recently, the airline introduced new blankets in its Economy cabin that are made entirely from recycled plastic bottles. It’s hoped that the blankets will save 88 million plastic bottles from landfill by 2019.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.