Care and Cleaning of Cabin Covers:
An Interview with Ron Kensey, President of Kennon Aircraft Covers
What can an owner do to get the longest life from a cabin cover? Keep it clean, says aircraft cover guru Ron Kensey of Kennon Aircraft Covers, and repair any damage right away. In this AVweb interview, Kensey explains the ins and outs of aircraft cover maintenance, and talks about the new, low-cost aircraft cover cleaning and repair service that is now being operated at — of all places — the Veterans Administration Medical Center at Sheridan, Wyoming. For the modest price of $50 to $75, they'll clean, repair, and re-waterproof any make of fabric aircraft cabin cover (not just Kennon).
Ron, what can an owner do to get the longest life from a cabin cover?
For woven fabrics it is important to keep the cover clean, and make repairs as soon as they are needed. We make our cabin covers from Sunbrella that fits into that category. Dirty covers absorb more water than they repel. A cover that is coming apart at the seams will be further damaged by the wind in no time.
Keep the cover off the ground and always store the cover in its storage bag.
How long can you expect a cabin cover to last?
Your cover should exceed five years useful life if it is made right and cleaned and repaired properly.
A lot depends on how the cover was built. For instance it makes sense for us to match the quality of thread to quality of fabric. If we use a material that is warranted for five years then we should use a thread of a of a comparable quality. No thread manufacturer will warrant thread, but there are some threads that will withstand the sun better than others.
The same goes for webbing that is used for straps and the quick-release fasteners. Quality usually costs more.
But even if a seam is coming apart, it isn't the end of the cover. It can be repaired. And the rest of the thread can be re-treated to withstand more UV.
Kennon uses Sunbrella, but do most other cover manufacturers use Sunbrella?
Many cover manufacturers use Sunbrella, or will if you ask them to. Sunbrella is a woven acrylic canvas. It withstands the sun, and is breathable so it won't trap moisture. It is the very best material that we know of for this application.
The UV destroys nylon rapidly. And nylon doesn't breathe, so it traps water. Cotton canvas breathes, but it doesn't survive the sun very well. There are other synthetics out there, and we are always looking. So far, however, Sunbrella is the best.
What is the best way to clean a cover?
The best way to clean Sunbrella is to pretreat the stains and then wash the cover in a commercial washing machine with a special non-detergent cleaner. Then, hang it out to dry. The manufacturer has recommended a special repellency re-treatment material that you spray onto the cover after washing.
We have washed covers for years in our home washing machines, and while you can do it, we haven't been satisfied with the results. So we have been working with out local Veterans Administration facility in Sheridan, Wyo., to develop a cleaning and repair service for aircraft covers.
The VA? How did they get involved in cleaning covers?
The Veterans Administration Medical Center is the largest employer in our county, and a subject of a lot of anxiety in Sheridan, Wyo., because government funding for the facility has remained flat for the past few years. Employees are being laid off from work as the in-patient census declines.
They have a state-of-the-art laundry facility — probably the best-equipped facility in the state. They also have some terrific personnel who know how to do the job. So we are teaming together to offer a service that you can't easily find: cover cleaning.
Does it have to be a Kennon cover?
No it doesn't have to be a Kennon cover. It doesn't matter who made the cover for us to clean and repair it.
If Kennon makes its business from making covers, why would you want to clean and repair covers? Especially the competition's? If covers last longer, then won't you sell fewer of them?
It is more important for us to focus on what is good for the customer. We have learned that when we serve them well, they remember us.
What happens when you get covers that are beyond repair?
We inspect the cover, and if we can add value to the cover by cleaning and repairing it, we will. If not, then we call the customer, explain the situation, and send the cover back. We just think that before someone buys a new cover, they should make sure that they have gotten as much use as they can from their existing one.