About 60 auto and aircraft detailers have set up shop at the Museum of Flight, where they're painstakingly preserving historic aircraft, including the first Air Force One jet plane and a World War- II-era Boeing B-29 Superfortress.
Keith Duplessie closed down his detailing shop and flew halfway across the country out of a sense of duty.
He and about 60 auto and aircraft detailers have set up shop at Seattle’s Museum of Flight, where they’re preserving several historic aircraft, including a Boeing VC-137B that once served as Air Force One and a World War- II-era Boeing B-29 Superfortress.
For Duplessie, who is now serving in the Texas Army National Guard, it’s his second stint at the museum after returning from deployment in Kuwait. He’s working alongside nine veterans on the team.
“Every one of these planes has changed history,” he said Wednesday. “Knowing that history and having my own history of service, how could I say no?”
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The detailers, who volunteer to work on the aircraft, were selected by Renny Doyle, considered a master detailer of aircraft. Doyle and his wife, Diane, who used to work in law enforcement, offer training to the detailers they select from around the country to work at the Museum of Flight.
Most volunteers secured sponsorship or are getting help from the museum with housing, Doyle said, but many close down their own businesses to help with preservation.
“It’s worth every penny you lose to be out here,” Duplessie said.
Doyle has worked on planes from around the world, but brings his crew to the Museum of Flight every year to clean and polish the plane exteriors, which take a beating from the weather.
“Our goal is to make them look like they did when they were new,” said Doug Parfitt, the detailing crew’s project manager.
The Air Force One on display at the museum is the first presidential jet plane and was delivered in 1959 to replace President Dwight Eisenhower’s Super-Constellation. It takes about 1,000 hours of work to preserve the aircraft, Doyle said.
Ted Huetter, public-relations manager for the museum, said the presidential plane has been on loan from the Air Force since the mid-1990s and is considered a permanent item in the collection.
Because of environmental regulations at Boeing Field, Doyle said the crew has found a way to drywash the planes using less water than the average person uses to wash their car. Detailers use spray bottles and microfiber towels to delicately wipe away dirt. In the course of their week in Seattle, the crew will go through 3,000 towels, Doyle said.
While the crew works on all of the planes in the museum’s collection, Air Force One is never without attention from detailers.
“It was on the tarmac the day [President John] Kennedy was assassinated,” Doyle said. “It has seen history that some of us haven’t seen.”
In 2002, one of Doyle’s clients, Joe Clark, founder of Aviation Partners in Seattle, approached him about restoring Air Force One to its original glimmer, which experts said couldn’t be done. Doyle took the challenge.
“And the rest is history,” he said. “It all started here in Seattle.”
It’s Doyle routine to plant a kiss on the plane’s nose at the beginning and end of the project.
Before Doyle was a master detailer, his fascination with aircraft began when he was a 13-year-old boy growing up in a tough neighborhood outside of Los Angeles. Doyle would ride his bike nine miles to the nearest airfield to watch planes take off.
Eventually, he convinced famous aerobatic pilot Art Scholl to teach him how to fly. He detailed and cleaned Scholl’s planes in exchange, launching a lifelong passion.
Scholl was killed in 1985 when his airplane plunged into the Pacific Ocean during the filming of “Top Gun.”
The detailing crew will continue their work at the Museum of Flight’s Aviation Pavilion through Sunday. The displays remain open while work is being done.