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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 install a stationary on-site wash rack. Also what kind of equipment is needed and what kinds of environmental controls are needed for all of this. Well, I started my first airplane wash service at the age of 12, so I know a thing or two about cleaning airplanes. Here are some thoughts on this very good question.
Well, the equipment has to be mounted and placed in a canopy of some type – something low to the ground to taxi a low wing aircraft. The airport in question is in an area of California that sometimes gets really cold. So you need to make sure that the water doesn’t freeze and that you have some type of safety valve to completely empty the water in the pump after use, you can’t let it freeze.
If the airport wants to put a whole wash pad with a drain in the center which is reasonable, 1 inch by 5 foot slope, but I also advise putting a small trench 4 inches by 6 inches with a small grate around it to drain all the water from all sides, proper drainage is important due to debris that can stay inside, you don’t want to create a mosquito haven or scum build up? Also, the wash mat should be slightly up so that it does not collect water from elsewhere and form a puddle.
There is another thought and that would be some sort of hangar around the wash rack where the owner can taxi and pull the nose of the plane under the overhang keeping people out of the rain? You also have to ask yourself; will pilots use degreaser on their fenders, engines, bellies? If so, it adds cost, filtration challenges, and problems at your local sewer plant, but it’s still probably something the homeowners 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 ft. hose, double steel braid, with quick disconnects at 150 ft. and 200 feet. With refund; $28,000 and no refund; $7500
2. If cold water only get a 5.5 HP or electrical equivalent, 4.5 GPM, Cat 1500 psi pump. Price: around $1800 – get multiple offers.
3. Add any construction costs + treatment plants the county or city has put in place. I think $25,000 for a scrubber, $12,000 for the slightly raised 4-6″ wash pad is all you need to prevent puddles from the ramp or taxiway – minus concrete, assuming this will be placed right next to the taxiway or to the side of the ramp.
There are Landa dealers around, try the phone book under the “pressure washer equipment” category. They can fix you. Also if you need an above ground freeze resistant regeneration system prior to discharge to the city sewer system. If you are on a septic tank this would be the only way or if you have to let the water go to water the airport lawn after it is filtered.
EPA regulations at the airport are pretty strict – everything from de-icing fluid, hydraulic fluids, fuel, etc. – No discharge into waterways is allowed. Also check 13.263 of the California water code, it’s pretty strict there too, in some cases even more so. They are really overdoing it but realize you are in high ground with runoff, no point messing up a nice airport, we are lucky to have all the airports we can get for general aviation these days. Please consider all this and think about it.
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