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Give Your Bird Some TLC
Dana Brejakova, Contributing Writer & Photographer

No flying adventures? No problem. We always have something to do around the birds. When not in the air and the birds resting in the hangars, it is a perfect time to give them some TLC. And by TLC I mean cleaning, washing, polishing, getting rid of undesired residues, scrubbing layers of dead bugs, cleaning oil spots from the belly, some more washing again, scrubbing more dead bugs, cleaning and polishing the windows and canopies, hosing the birds down, and drying the birds with special microfiber materials not to end up with water spots on the paint. This time it was turn for Jimmy's RV-8.

If you live in a high desert, cleaning the bird must be carefully planned according to the Sun's activity. The best time to wash the bird is usually very early in the morning or right before the Sun goes down otherwise you are setting yourself up for a serious sweating extravaganza and very likely heat stroke too.

When I saw the forecast with a few cooler days coming, it was time to pick a bird and go for it. Jimmy's RV-8 won the toss up so we set up the late afternoon to gain an advantage of pleasant outside temperatures. Washing Jimmy's RV-8 is always fun, at least for me. It is not a big bird and with a low wing construction- piece of cake. I look forward to washing and cleaning the birds not only because I love cleaning and organizing by the default, but also because I get to see the shiny bird after the work-out. And then later, jump in the puddles to wet my flip flops to make perfect imprint of the soles revealing its funky pattern on the dry asphalt. Someone could say that I still act like a curious kid sometimes, well that someone would be correct. The key to success is to stay enthused about ordinary hustles. Haha.

At the washing rack, ready for the action. All we needed was a good bucket, soapy solution, two sponges with multiple texture surfaces, hose, and two chamois cloths.
Soapy solution

A soapy solution was mixed in the bucket, then we threw the sponges in to soak, plugged the hose, and Jimmy the Squirrel started hosing the bird down while I was running around changing my positions strategically not to get a full shot from the hose by accident (which happened several times despite my best efforts).

We started with splashing the bird all over giving attention to the wings. From then on, we were keeping the bird consistently covered in water to prevent the bird drying on the air before we were completely done.

Carry on, do not let the cowboy girl distract you.
A little bit on the nose and canopy too.
Back to the wings
Invasion stripes and the stars and bars look so shiny once the dust disappears.
Don't forget the tail.

The vertical areas dry pretty fast. The sides of the fuselage and the vertical parts of the tail need frequent hosing during the whole washing not to dry on us. Very important rule - the bird needs to stay wet until polished with chamois otherwise one ends up with ugly water marks all over the bird.

The bird was ready for the next step - soaping it up.
With Jimmy the Squirrel walking around the bird keeping it hosed down, the soaked sponges were deployed to soap the bird and soak the dead bugs.
Fuselage soaping is a good work-out, especially when you have long arms and can stretch all over the place (inside joke for our friend Dennis, fellow T-Hangar Mafia hack who thinks I have very long arms).
Getting into all gaps, making sure the flaps get their portion of TLC just as well.
At least but not last - the canopy gets soaped too. However, the plexiglass will be getting one more dose of polishing after the bird is all done.
One last hosing down, washing all the soap away.

From this point the real race and probably the funniest part of cleaning begins. As the air is very dry, we need to polish the bird with chamois (special microfiber material that absorbs water without leaving the streaks behind to eliminate ugly water spots on the paint) before it dries on its own due to environmental conditions. If we are not fast enough then Jimmy needs to go and sprinkle the bird with water again. As I said, probably the funniest part of the whole process.

And there it is - chamois in action. See the wonderful result? No water spots, only fantastically shiny result that does the paint job so much justice.
The devil is in the details. Check out the sticker that is an amazing addition to make this RV-8's impression of Mustang P-51 Gun Fighter even more realistic. The sticker almost shined as the bird was free from dust and dirt.
Isn't she lovely? Nice and clean. We were happy with the result. However, the final touch of cleaning the canopy plexiglass still needed to be done.
Shiny and gorgeous, the bird was escorted to the hangar for the final canopy cleaning.
Cleaning the canopy

To achieve a superb and ultimate cleanliness of the canopy, Jimmy the Squirrel used a foam in a can that smelled like a delicious fruity bubblegum. We applied rich layers of the foamy bliss and polished the canopy to turn it into beautiful crystal clear marvel.

After the canopy was polished, I could not help myself and I had to take pictures of the reflections. The canopy was so clean and from some strange reason I started craving pink bubblegum. Yum!

Stunning detail, huh? What did I say - crystal clear!

The Sun disappeared behind the mountain and we were very happy we cleaned another bird. She is now ready to get all playful and dirty again on our next flying adventures.

By Dana Brejakova, Contributing Writer & Photographer
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