Aircraft cleaning—It’s all in the details

Aircraft cleaning—It’s all in the details

By Marjorie Rice

Clean planes fly faster—just ask Carolyn Berryman.

Berryman and her Time for Sale Mobile Detailing team clean up to five planes a day, from single-engine two-seater Cessnas to Gulfstreams, mostly at Scottsdale Airport.

They swarm over and inside the aircraft, brandishing long poles topped with “Doodlebug” pads to scrub the exterior, shampooing carpets, polishing brightwork (baby oil is great for removing fingerprints from stainless steel), even cleaning blankets and linens—whatever it takes to turn out squeaky clean results.

And Berryman is right in there with them, on sweltering summer days and nippy winter mornings, ensuring every detail is attended to.

“Our customers charter their aircraft as well as using it for their own personal use, and they’re very particular,” Berryman says. “They want it absolutely perfect, every time. It’s like a hotel room. You don’t want to be coming in and see crumbs and fingerprints from strangers who were there before. It has to be spot-on—five-star treatment.”

Her customers include celebrities and corporate CEOs, and Berryman keeps mum when asked for details. Privacy is another service, she says.

Her crew does whatever it takes to go the extra mile to make the customer happy, Berryman adds. Sometimes that means leaving gifts on board—a bottle of wine, cookies—in the same way hotels leave mints on pillows for guests to discover.

“I treat it like it’s not just a cleaning but more of a concierge service,” Berryman says. “It’s not just giving something a lick and a promise and saying it’s good enough. People don’t forget the added touch.”

And Berryman does it in style, pulling up to a job in her Porsche that hauls a trailer emblazoned with her signature graphic: a sponge-wielding hottie in a tank top with a vintage plane soaring overhead.

How It All Started

She calls her company Time for Sale because it began as a personal assistant business. After graduating in business from ASU, Berryman worked with an Airpark engineering consulting company. “That was in 1992,” she says. “We were located in a hangar, which allowed me to meet a lot of pilots and be around the Airpark environment.”

In 2005, after a divorce, she decided to start her own business to help people who didn’t have time to pick up cleaning, take the kids to soccer, meet repairmen at home—“Whatever people needed done, that’s what I’d be hired for.”

Berryman credits a neighbor, retired Air Force Lt. Col. Dave O’Neil, for getting her into the aircraft cleaning business. “I was going in all kinds of directions,” she says. “I knew Colonel Dave for years. He knew about my personal assistant business, and one day he asked me if I could clean his airplane. I owe so much to him because he recommended me to friends who also needed their aircraft cleaned.”

You could say the company took off from there.

“I got busier and busier with the airplanes, and decided this is the direction I’d rather go in,” Berryman says.

Berryman has four full-time employees—some days her husband, Cliff, also works on the planes—and she doesn’t plan to expand. “I like the intimacy,” she says. “I like things small, so I can take care of every job. Sometimes you can get too big and you can fall short and lose sight of what’s really important. I want to take care of four or five planes a day so I can make sure everything is done right.”

Other Services

Their services have expanded to include cleaning of customers’ personal vehicles and boats. Some owners park their vehicle at the hangar when they leave for a trip. Berryman’s team can detail it right there so the customer lands and has a pristine vehicle to drive away.

Time for Sale also cleans offices in the hangars and adjacent buildings and maintains hangar floors. “I do about six floors in the Airpark,” Berryman says. “The biggest one is about 18,000 square feet.”

One of the company’s newest and most popular services is the application of ToughGuard, which provides the aircraft with a coating designed to increase efficiency, protect the aircraft’s paint and make future cleaning easier and quicker.

Unlike some other Airpark businesses, Berryman doesn’t expect a spike in orders during the coming Super Bowl week.

“The planes usually are cleaned where they’re based, so they’re not coming here with dirty equipment,” she says. “Unless they hit weather, or you have five or six people eating popcorn in the cabin on the way here, the plane probably won’t need cleaning while it’s here.”

But there’s always the unexpected.

“You have to be very flexible and very understanding,” Berryman says. “It’s not your typical ‘show up and make 40 loaves of bread and go home’ kind of job.” For example, a plane may arrive from a chartered flight where the passengers left a real mess just as the aircraft’s actual owner announces plans to travel. “You may have one day to do it; you may have three hours.”

Having a small business operating right at Scottsdale Airport is like working in a small town, Berryman says. Referrals are essential to her success. “People here know everybody. If you don’t treat one person well, it can ripple through. I’m very fortunate, but I’m very sensitive to that issue, too.”