BEHIND THE SCENES IN AIRCRAFT CLEANING, BACKPACK VACUUMS
Among commercial cleaning jobs, cleaning aircraft is
surely one of the most unusual. It is performed not only under tight deadlines
between flights, but also in tight quarters. There's little room for error, and
no room for maneuvering cumbersome equipment.
A DEFINING TOOL
Although the original backpack vacuum was designed
specifically for more conventional applications, it turns out to be ideally
suited to cope with the narrow aisles and cramped under-seat areas of aircraft.
"Backpack vacs are lightweight, have good
suction, and are very efficient," says Michael Pulli, Manager of Contract
Administration for OneSource, one of the largest service and maintenance
companies in the world. The OneSource Aviation Division is one of the largest
companies servicing aircraft and airports in the world.
"Backpack vacuums are versatile. The floor tools
move easily between seat tracks and under aircraft seats, and the units are
quiet," Pulli continues. "They do an excellent job for us."
The OneSource Aviation Division is a full-service
operation for ground-handling, cargo and ticketing functions, and cleaning,
including hangars, offices, terminals, and aircraft. This division cleans
aircraft in both the U.S. and Europe, including locations such as O'Hare, JFK,
and Atlanta International airports.
"Cleaning is choreographed," Pulli
emphasizes. A four-person cleaning team descends on the space: one specialist
for the lavatories, one for galleys, and one vacuuming/detail specialist works
from forward to the rear while another works from rear to forward, meeting in
the middle. Such focused specialization increases cleaning efficiency, Pulli
TRYING SOMETHING NEW AND DIFFERENT
Pulli says that when his company tested the backpack
unit they "liked that it was small and light. It moved easier, and the
vacuum operator was in full control."
In cleaning aircraft, Pulli says, "we follow the
exact specifications of each airline." Details include placing emergency
cards and literature in seat pockets, crossing seat belts neatly across seats,
folding blankets, placing pillows in specified compartments, and vacuuming the
While airlines sometimes provide their own equipment,
OneSource prefers to use backpacks extensively in three of its locations,
including Little Rock. "Before the backpack vac, we used a bullet tank-type
model. It was difficult to drag down the aisle of the aircraft," Pulli
says. The bullet would catch on seat tracks, slowing the workers down.
Les Payne, Manager of OneSource operations in Little
Rock, who oversees a staff of 21, concurs. With a backpack, he says, "we
get more done in less time. It does the job as well or better than conventional
vacs and can be used on hard flooring as well as on indoor/outdoor
carpeting," he says. "Our workers like the portability of the
backpack. They just strap it on. It's easier to use since they don't have to
drag it," Payne reports.
"Backpacks do a good job. I know because I
inspect each plane after it has been cleaned," confides the 32-year veteran
airport worker, who was a ticket agent and ramp agent for 25 years before
joining OneSource. Payne's crews clean 737s, 727s, and DC-9s for TWA and
Southwest Airlines at Little Rock Regional Airport.
Since the favorable experience in cleaning aircraft
with backpack vacuums, OneSource has adopted backpacks for additional uses in
the company's worldwide Building Maintenance Division. For example, in airport
concourses and other buildings, he explains, "Day Porters on call use a
backpack to tidy up dry material spills, such as debris from planters and
accidental ashtray dumps."
IN-DEPTH CUSTOMER SERVICE
Besides on-the-ground aircraft cleaning between
flights, OneSource also provides overnight aircraft cleaning in many locations.
Overnight cleaning is more extensive, Pulli says, requiring about 8 to 10
personnel hours. In other words, a team of four cleans a 727 in 2.5 hours or the
slightly smaller MD-80 in 2 hours. Pulli says that the backpack vac is used for
overnight cleaning, too. Its portability and maneuverability make it the machine
of choice. After each overnight cleaning, Pulli says, the flight crew is given a
quality control postcard checklist so OneSource can receive customer feedback on
the work it is performing for airlines.
Like the work of flying aircraft, the work of cleaning
them is demanding, rewarding for those who make the grade, and no place to wing
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