Etihad Airways, the international airline of Abu Dhabi, and one of the world’s fastest-growing carriers, is now set to become one of the world’s greenest airlines, following its decision to introduce the unique Permagard exterior cleaning programme to its entire aircraft fleet.
The process, developed by Permagard Aviation in France, cleans and completely seals the aircraft’s exterior with a fine polymer layer, which protects and extends the life of the paintwork, dramatically reduces the need for water washing and, in initial trials, has been credited with reducing fuel consumption. Permagard also maintains a like-new “wet look” during the lifespan of the paint, which maximises the appearance of the aircraft and is good for image and branding.
“We are delighted to announce that Etihad Airways is the first major international airline to introduce our treatment programme,” said the President of Permagard Aviation, Mr Luc d’Argence.
“The core benefit of this programme is the ability to clean and preserve the aircraft’s exterior for an extended period, reducing significantly the frequency of washing, deferring the need to repaint planes and cutting the time they spend on the ground, earning them more revenue in the air,” said Mr d’Argence.
“Combined with savings associated with cleaning and reduced aircraft downtime, the Permagard treatment delivers not just clean, green aircraft but significant reductions in water usage and cleaning fluids being released into the environment – important considerations at any time, but particularly in the current cost climate for the airline industry.”
The Etihad decision to treat its entire fleet as well as all new aircraft deliveries is a major endorsement of the Permagard Bio Coatings programme, introducing it to the long haul airline sector for the first time, and providing a global network on which to showcase the Permagard results. In addition to reduced aircraft downtime, lower maintenance costs and expected fuel savings, Etihad estimates a reduction of 10 million litres of water, or 75 per cent, in 2010, from reduced washing of aircraft, as well as a 96 per cent cut in the use of cleaning fluids, from 50,000 litres to 2,000.
In addition to cleaning and completely sealing the aircraft’s outer surface, the Permagard treatment repels a wide range of contaminants, ranging from runway grime to bugs and oil stains, making it easier to clean aircraft exteriors and reducing subsequent “parasitic drag”, which incrementally increases fuel burn through the need for higher engine thrust.
Permagard has already proved to be a major benefit for Australia’s Virgin Blue Group, whose fleet of narrow-bodied jets operates within Australia, New Zealand and the South West Pacific, while a number of other carriers in the Asia Pacific region are currently trialling the process, as part of a combined effort to improve aircraft presentation while reducing fuel and maintenance expenses and embracing more environmentally friendly processes.