By Emily Nyenhuis, EAA 1327850, Chapter 1051, Nova Scotia
September 2021 marks the one-year anniversary of my little entrepreneurship, Echo Foxtrot Aircraft Washing. Even though COVID-19 put a bit of a damper on my first year in business, I was able to wash five airplanes, one of them twice. Winter and lockdowns made me feel like my business would never become something and that it would just peter away into nothingness.
I became an EAA student member in July 2019. I had my first flight in a small private airplane in November 2017 and loved it. Since then I’ve flown in two Young Eagles flights. I followed in the footsteps of my dad who became an EAA member in 2005. He’s building an RV-10 in our garage. I would love to fly it someday. My parents have been to Oshkosh twice, once in 2009 and again in 2017. I’m around aviation a lot since I live near the Greenwood air force base, where my dad works as a flight engineer on the Aurora.
I got the name for my business from the phonetic alphabet, which all pilots know. Echo is because “E” is the first letter of my name and Foxtrot is a nickname given to me by my friends.
In the summer of 2020 at age 16, I decided that I really wanted to be more involved in the aviation world. I want to get my pilot’s license someday but as of now, I’m just saving enough money to make that dream possible. What better way to save up a little money to go toward a pilot’s license than to do little jobs around a hangar! I thought about maybe being hired by an airplane owner to do little jobs like cleaning around the hangar. I was kind of hoping to get some flying out of it, not going to lie.
That was my first idea, but then I received the suggestion of having a day of cleaning people’s airplanes on one of the days where we all got together for a barbeque. I got the impression that that would be a great service, so I considered making it into a business. So, on September 26, 2020, I had the debut of my aircraft washing business. On that day, with Dawn soap and hose in hand and my sister by my side, I started cleaning an airplane at the fly-in barbeque at Freedom Aviation in Greenwood, and soon I had airplanes lined up to be cleaned. By the time I had to leave, there were still airplanes waiting to be cleaned.
On that day, I cleaned airplanes with my sister as well as a boy at the fly-in who was interested in helping.
I advertised for crew members, but after having no replies, I decided to be a one-woman show, and I haven’t regretted it since. Sure, it takes me longer to clean an airplane, but I get to keep all the money and most of all maintain my own system for how I clean. I enjoy being alone with my micro-fibre cloth in hand and the airplane that I’m cleaning, taking in the sounds of airplanes taking off, pilots talking to each other about their well-loved aircraft, and the overall bustle of an air force base.
I’ve moved on from the Dawn soap I used on my first day, to Wash Wax All products. I find it a little more expensive than some of the other products that I could use, but they come with instructional videos on YouTube and a detailed how-to guide along with the purchase, and not to mention they do a good job!
It usually takes me anywhere from 3-6 hours to clean the whole exterior of a single-engine airplane. I’m a perfectionist. With airplanes that have rivets that stick out, I often have the urge to clean every single rivet to perfection, with no dirt evident even through a magnifying glass. Whether it’s my knees on the dusty hangar floor or on the cracking asphalt in front of the runway, I don’t mind getting dirty. It’s just part of the job and I find satisfaction in it.
I’ve even just started to make a profit. This all has taught me useful business skills, such as setting prices that are good for me and my customers (reasonable and worth it for my customers while being enough to buy supplies and make a profit for me).
So if you are ever flying down into the Annapolis Valley, I would take much pleasure in making your airplane all squeaky clean again!