Tip 10 – Tender Loving Care
By: Jerry Temple
Phone: (972) 712-7302      Fax: (972) 712-7303

Publications this article appeared in: Twin Cessna Flyer Jan 1998


As a professional aircraft broker, specializing in twin Cessnas, I see many aircraft. Like homes and autos, we all have our own standards for what I’ll simply call “cleanliness and neatness” – C&N.

When inspecting aircraft that I’ve agreed to represent, evaluating aircraft as the buyer’s agent or simply when appraising airplanes, I get to see a wide range of owner C&N standards.

I should now note that this article is a discussion of owner conducted interior and exterior NON-TECHNICAL care. Discussions of airframe, engine, propeller, aircraft systems and avionics maintenance is left to persons specializing in these respective areas of aircraft maintenance. Let’s assume that any discrepancy discovered while conducting owner approved maintenance or detailing will be brought to the attention of maintenance personnel.

Great aircraft care to poor aircraft care crosses both owner and aircraft age groups, aircraft types, and locations. Late model 421C to older 310. Rural airport to big city airport. North, East, South, West, USA or foreign. Owner age seventy- eight to age twenty-five. Wealthy professional person to blue collar type. Toss all of your stereotypes away.

I’ve seen a 421C where all passengers were required to remove their shoes and put on surgical moccasins before boarding. I’ve seen a 310R with a snap-on rubber mat that covered the wing walkway. And I’ve seen aircraft whose cabins have not been cleaned in years. Many have magazines and flight charts years out of date. The empty food containers, soda cans, rags, and trash overflow from seat pouches and storage areas.

One might argue that an owner’s standard of C&N has no relationship to formal maintenance. I disagree. Experience shows me otherwise. My inspections and appraisals easily show that the owner with a high standard of C&N addresses all maintenance with diligence, and if the cosmetics are overlooked, all too often formal maintenance is poor.

The owner maintaining his/her aircraft with a high standard of C&N can expect to be rewarded at sale time. The owner that just allows the little odds and ends to build will be penalized at sale time. Some owners think they’re being “nit-picked.” Wrong. There’s a difference in “nit-picking” and having the consequences of years of neglect being pointed out.

Trust me, the cosmetics are important. A buyer’s first impression still is a huge factor in sales. It’s as simple as a buyer’s belief that if cosmetics have been neglected, what else has been neglected.

As the majority of the country is engulfed in winter, many owners reduce their flying. It’s still a great time to borrow a corner in a heated hangar to cultivate your investment. It’s time well spent. So regardless if you’ve recently purchased your Cessna twin, or have owned it for several years, here are some C&N ideas that will enhance the value of your airplane.

Wing Lockers: Air Out. Glue loose rubber seal. Change courtesy light. Confirm correct placard. Glue all loose lining. If the lining is rotten and/or gone, consider relining. Check into Grosspointe Fabric. Store all liquids or messy items such as oil in a plastic pan. A plastic kitty litter pan is an ideal height. Dedicate the left wing locker in 310/320’s as your “dirty locker” and the right locker in all other Cessna twins. Keep tools, rags, fuel drain cups and other dirty/smelly items in the dirty locker. Keep the “clean locker” as clean as possible. Toss all junk.

Nose Storage Area: Air Out. Change courtesy light. Check for correct placard. Think: Have avionics/equipment changes effected the placard weights. The allowable baggage weight may have changed.

Cabin: Clean out seat pouches. Toss old maps, pencils, gum and candy wrappers. Confirm that all oxygen outlets work Confirm that all oxygen masks or cannula work. Toss brittle masks. Clean dirty masks with soap and water. Purchase fresh masks or cannula. Check passenger-reading lights. Check operation of fresh air ducts. A little lube is helpful. A duct that will not close at 15 below is a killer. Check all seats for complete operation – Forward/Aft and Recline. Evaluate leather/vinyl and fabrics. Repair where possible. Clean headliner. Polish and treat woodwork. Properly stow survival gear.

The Royalite Plastic: Ouch. High priority. The Royalite yellows and fades. It’s labor intensive to remove the plastic. Skilled interior people use hairdryers to heat the plastic so it’s more pliable. One shop calls working with cold Royalite like working with crisp cornflakes. Royalite can be repainted/re-dyed. Some owners simply cover the plastic with leather or vinyl. Its solves the fading. Also some pieces are so expensive to purchase and then paint, re-covering could be less costly. Make sure all screws are in place on all Royalite. Bon Ami kitchen cleanser works well in cleaning Royalite. It’s also very good for headliner cleaning.

Here’s a great idea. Remove all cabin seats. Have your shop pull the seats on a Friday afternoon. Rent or hire someone with a carpet/upholstery steam cleaner. Purchase a small home size cleaner – about $50. It’s a great aircraft investment. On a warm weekend steam clean all seats, seat belts, side panels and carpet. Steam cleaning combined with the proper use of stain removers works wonders. I recommend once a year. While the seats are out, it’s easy to clean the headliner remove curtains and clean other hard to get to areas. On Monday, have the shop install the dry seats.

Rust often will build on the metal adjacent to passenger “hand pulls” and on items such as the oxygen port covers. A Scotch Brite pad will removed most cabin rust. Items like this are easy to get when the seats are removed. Also while the seats are out, evaluate the seats underside paint. It’s easy to protect the seats while painting the bases. Repair any inoperative seat functions. Get sagging pouches tightened. Never load with heavy items.

Writing tables: Clean and polish. Check for required placards. Repair cracks. Easy to remove when seats are out. Clean/polish other cabin woodwork, i.e., refreshment center, Jepp Cases, Forward and Aft Cabin Dividers and storage drawers.

Potty: In well-lighted area and also with a flashlight carefully check for leaks. Any leaking urine is highly corrosive. Reapply the velcro that is commonly used on potty cushions.

Curtains: If needed, remove all window, forward and aft cabin divider curtains and the potty curtain. If they’re in good condition, try dry cleaning. If they’re old and getting faded and thin, I suggest having new curtains made. Use the old curtains as a pattern. Remember to get FAA approved materials. Re-installing curtains is a tough job. Plan a few hours. Again, it’s much easier to do when the seats are removed.

Armrests and Headrests: Lubricate both crew and passenger collapsing armrests. Adjust for proper angles. Confirm number and fit of “pop-in” type armrests in 310/320 aircraft.

Fuel Tank Selectors and Crew Seat Area: Confirm correct placards for fuel selectors and gear extension/aux pump operations. The selector placards and the rectangular placard forward of the selectors are often in horrible shape. Replace as required for your fuel system. Several owners have created clear plastic covers for all floor placards. They look great and protect the placards. All placards can be purchased from Cessna. Many owners create their own placards or have neat ones made at sign shops.

Test all fuel selector positions with engines running. Confirm that the Off position cuts off fuel.

Repair bent and loose heel scuff plates by rudder pedals. Check rudder pedal gust lock for proper operation.

Windshield and Cabin Windows: Check all windows for cracks. Easier to do with seats and curtains removed. Really stretch. Look over every window in and out. Confirm with maintenance, and address all cracks and crazing.

Dashboard: Clean. Avoid placing headsets and books on dash. Windshield are often scratched by these items. Many owners have had automotive type dashboard covers custom made. One had a beautiful leather pad made. Allow holes for vents and defroster ducts.

Panel: Clean or replace the rubber covers on switches. Check all lights for operation. Check for all required placards. Repair/Replace as required. Paint or change all rusty screws. Research the age, hours and serial numbers of all instruments and equipment.

Screw Inspection/Replacement: With a “screw kit” carefully look over every inch of the cabin. Replace screws as required. Same procedure for the exterior. Consider changing to stainless steel. Kits available.

Exterior: The aircraft’s type data certificate, Pilot’s Operating Handbook and the aircraft’s Service Manual identifies all required placards. Check that every required placard is on your aircraft.

Administration: Confirm that a proper Airworthiness Certificate, Registration, Pilot’s Operating Handbook or Owner’s Manual are in the aircraft. The Airworthiness Certificate must be displayed. Throw away all old pink temporary registrations. Do not fly outside of the USA on a temporary Pink Registration. That’s big trouble. Current weight and balance must be on board. If the latest weight and balance numbers are a logbook entry, then you likely have been flying without a current W&B. Insist that all weight and balance entries be done on a W&B form. NO LOGBOOK ENTRIES. The FCC radio license is not required for domestic flights. However, if you fly outside of the USA you need a FCC radio station license. Current cost for a new application is $95. Throw away all old Green temporary radio licenses.

Any aftermarket or STC’ed equipment? Are the required documents on board? Are the supplements to the aircraft’s POH current?

Logbooks and Records: Photocopy ALL logbooks and records. Photocopy all FAA form 337s, STC, Yellow Tags, receipts, etc. Set up in three ring binders and keep this clone set current. Treat all original logs and records like “cash.” It is. Never store in aircraft, hangar, auto. Treat like valuable and impossible to replace documents. They are just that.

Read the logbooks. Make notes. Check all arithmetic. Chart annuals and gaps in flying. Note date of installation, current hours and serial numbers of key components. Is there a current AD List? If you’re too busy, hire a qualified shop. Get all records current. Duplicate and secure.

Purchase a current Title Search. I’ve had several long time owners react with disbelief to learn that there are liens against their airplane. Often the documents to confirm a paid off loan were never submitted to the FAA. Often the clearing of old liens is no easy task. You can spend an enormous amount of time trying to track down names and numbers from 25-30 years ago. Aero-Space Reports of Oklahoma City has one specialist that only works on clearing up title problems.

The ownership of a Cessna twin, or any general aviation airplane can be both a responsibility and pleasure. Many good airframes have thousands of hours. Some have damage history. Most have had several owners. Many remain similar to when they left Wichita. Others bear little resemblance to their original look.

The current owner of a Cessna twin has the opportunity, and I believe the responsibility, to get their aircraft in the best possible condition. It’s not wasted money. The skilled professionals are available to support the formal maintenance of the aircraft. But there is much owners can do that requires no mechanical skills. Call it cleaning, detailing, TLC or call it what you like. If you don’t consider it mandatory you’ll wish you had at sale time. If you do, you’re already reaping the rewards. Carry On.