Many of our customers ask about protecting their cockpit avionics from the spread of COVID 19 without damaging the units. Cleaning your avionics will not only maintain a clean cockpit but also help prevent the spread of a virus. There are some basic steps you can take to accomplish both protection/disinfecting without damaging equipment and it is important to take extra care in selecting the best cleaning method and products for your specific avionics equipment.
- Don’t use paper products to wipe down your equipment. Use a lint free cloth such as Dupont Sontara Aircraft Wipes which are available at Sports, Uline, Pilot’s HQ to name a few places.
- Most avionics OEMs advise pilots to avoid ammonia when cleaning the cockpit as they will harm the antireflective coating on many aviation display lenses. The Garmin G1000 series has a special anti-reflective coating found on many other avionics products that is very sensitive to skin oils, waxes and abrasive cleaners.
- Disinfect your cockpit by using a solution of 70% isopropyl alcohol that is free of any ammonia. Solutions of up to 91% isopropyl alcohol are also acceptable, however disinfecting solutions of 70% isopropyl alcohol provide the most balanced solution for bacterial effectiveness and equipment safety as long as they don’t also include ammonia. The surface must remain wet for at least 30 seconds.
- Use a damp cloth with soap and water for exposed surfaces such as knobs, buttons and bezels. Again, a soap or cleaning product that is free of ammonia or a beach-based product or other harsh chemicals is recommended.
- Make sure to remove all soap and soap residue to avoid getting the buttons and knobs gummy or slippery.
- Protect against moisture damage by making sure you do not spray or wet the units where moister can go inside the unit and cause damage.
- For basic cleaning of fingerprint smudges from your touchscreen units, Garmin GTN’s offer a utility button that “locks” the unit during in-flight cleaning operations.
MyGoFlight’s Dominic “Nic” Martinez suggested pilots adhere to the most recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisories and add a “common-sense approach to helping to protect ourselves, coworkers, friends, and family.”
He said pilots could start by creating a space in their flight bags or luggage to locate protective and cleaning gear quickly. Travel-sized liquid disinfectants are handy when water is unavailable, Martinez said. “You will want to use them often, and prior to entering the cockpit.”
He also advised pilots to “wipe down all surface areas with a disinfecting cleaner like Clorox wipes prior to and just after entering the cockpit, and spend particular attention to areas you will touch often.”
Tablets, phones, and avionics mounts should also be cleaned prior to handling. Martinez said travel-sized disinfectant wipes for this purpose are convenient, effective, and easy to dispose of, but “don’t forget to bring a trash bag to dispose of the wipes you may have used in flight.”
MyGoFlight sells a line of protective ArmorGlas products for electronic flight bags and tablets that contain an “oleophobic layer” that reduces oils and grime and adds anti-glare protection for improved visibility.
Martinez said it was safe to use a mild dish detergent on silicone components including suction cups for handheld avionics and point-of-view cameras. They can be cleaned and then dried with a soft cloth. “UV light is very aggressive on the silicone, so you don’t want to leave it out in the sun,” Martinez noted. He recommended storing interior mounts out of sunlight to preserve their integrity.
He said face masks, protective eyewear, and disposable gloves can be effective when pilots are required to sit in close quarters with other pilots or when they are carrying passengers. However, Martinez cautioned them to defer to their safety officers first, and to follow their directives to help “pilots, families, and crews stay safe and stay healthy” during the ongoing coronavirus crisis.