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Airport Wash Racks for General Aviation – Costs, Equipment and the EPA
Not long ago, a gentleman at a small California airport asked me how much it might cost to set up a fixed washing rack. Also, what equipment was required and what kinds of environmental controls were needed for all of this. Well, I started my first plane washing service when I was 12, so I know a thing or two about cleaning planes. Here are some thoughts on this very good question.
The equipment should be mounted and placed in a shed of some kind – something low to the ground so that the low-wings can taxi. The airport in question is located in an area of California that gets really cold at times. So you need to make sure that the water doesn’t freeze and that you have some type of pressure relief valve that completely drains all the water from the pump after use, you can’t let it freeze.
If the airport wishes to put in an entire wash pad with a drain in the center, which is reasonable, 1 inch per 5 foot slope, but I also recommend putting a small 4 x 6 inch ditch with a small grate around it to drain all the water from all sides, it is important proper drainage for dirt that could get stuck inside, you don’t want to create a haven for mosquitoes or build up dirt? Also, the washing mat should be a little higher so that water does not collect on it from elsewhere and puddles form in it.
There is another thought and that would be some sort of hangar around the wash rack where the owner could drive around and pull the nose of the plane under the overhang to protect people from the rain? Additionally, you should ask yourself; will pilots use degreaser on their firewalls, engines, bellies? If so, it adds cost, filtration issues, and problems in your local sewer system, even though it’s probably something the homeowner’s association there would want.
Let’s talk about costs:
1. If you had a hot water pressure washer, I recommend a 5 GPM, 15 HP or electric equivalent, Cat 2500 psi pump, natural gas burner, 250 feet of hose, double steel braid, with quick disconnects at 150 feet and 200 feet. With reclamation; $28,000 and non-refundable; 7500 dollars
2. If cold water only gets 5.5 HP or electrical equivalent, 4.5 GPM, Cat 1500 psi pump. Price: around $1800 – get multiple offers.
3. Add any construction costs + cleaners you put into the district or city. I think $25,000 for a scrubber, $12,000 for a slightly raised 4-6″ wash pad is all you need to prevent puddles from the ramp or taxiway. -off, and concrete, assuming it’s placed directly at the taxiway or on the side of the ramp.
There are Landa dealers nearby, try the phone book in the “pressure washing equipment” category. They can fix you. Also if you need an above-ground frost-resistant recovery system before discharge to the city sewer. If you are on a septic system, this would be the only way to go, or if you let the water go to watering the airport grass once it is filtered.
EPA rules at the airport are pretty strict – everything from de-icing fluid, hydraulic fluids, fuel, etc. – No runoff is allowed into waterways. Also check California Water Code 13.263, it’s pretty strict there too, in some cases even more so. They are really exaggerating but remember you are on high ground with a leak, no point in spoiling a nice airport, we are lucky to have all the airports we can get for general aviation today. Please consider all this and think about it.
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