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Airglaze Protective Coatings are said to have been used to preserve everything from medical helicopters to a Boeing 737-700 VIP jet, to aircraft from The Flying Bulls Aerobatic Team, the world-renowned Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team (The Red Arrows) and even the British Royal Family’s Sikorsky S-76.
The coating is also an approved option on new Airbus helicopters sold in Germany, creating a super-smooth skin that’s said to decrease dirt buildup, prevent parasitic drag, reduce downtime for cleaning and prevent oxidization from getting into the painted surface.
But ask Airglaze founder and co-owner Graham Clarkson Sr. for details about how it works — what type of compound it is, what types of materials are used to create it — and he shrugs off the questions with a joke.
“I’ll tell you what I tell everybody else,” said Clarkson, who was born in Ayrshire, Scotland, and created the company Airglaze Aviation GmbH with his son, Graham Clarkson Jr., in 2007. “It’s a liquid, and it’s made from the finest blends of Scottish whiskey.”
He laughed good-naturedly at the joke, then gently declined to share company secrets.
A wise strategy for Clarkson, who said the Airglaze product was created through trial and error before presenting it to Eurocopter (now Airbus) about 10 years ago, to rave reviews.
Clarkson has a passion for helicopters and recalled an early break at a car show in Belgium that gave him a foothold in the industry. There was an air ambulance from German provider ADAC at the show, and Clarkson recalled giving a man nearby his card, offering a polishing service for the helicopter.
“Two weeks later we received a phone call from his boss, inviting us down to the south of Germany,” he said. “It just sort of blossomed from there.”
Airglaze quickly found a niche, avoiding extravagant claims about its products in favor of a down-to-earth approach.
“We’ve been very honest with the client,” said Clarkson. “One of the benefits is, it’s easy to clean. And if you follow the simple steps just to look after it and clean it, it’ll look after you.
“Our coatings have been applied to aircraft throughout Europe, Egypt and Asia, such as Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, and Dubai — with our recent project in Brazil. We’ve had great feedback from it.
“We’ve even applied it in the northern tips of Sweden, and it goes from minus 95C right up to 750C.”
Airglaze Aviation knows its clients see their aircraft as extensions of their personal image. A helicopter’s appearance, both inside and out, speaks to the level of quality the owner maintains and expects from their company.
“Your helicopter is basically an extension of your arm,” said Clarkson. “So if your helicopter looks good, you’ll look good, you’ll feel good, the pilot will look good, and people like to see good things.”
Airglaze Protective Coatings can be applied to painted and non-painted surfaces, and the company also provides Plexiglas polishing, aluminum polishing and aircraft painting services.
The company uses a rigorous process to polish and repair Plexiglas transparencies, taking into account distortion and optical recovery; the thickness of the transparency before and after repair; and bird impact resistance and other structural issues.
Photos on the Airglaze website show a rough-looking windshield Clarkson said was bombarded with sand in Sudan. After restoration is completed, the surface looks as good as new.
“We basically take a window of an aircraft [and] we actually measure it, we prepare it, polish it, and send it back to the client so they can reuse it again,” said Clarkson. “This cuts down time and money and reduces costs.”
Airglaze Aviation has about 10 employees, some who travel the world to serve clients and others based at a paint facility in Calden, Germany, and the head office in Heinsberg-Laffeld, Germany. The paint facility can hold anything from a small Robinson aircraft to an Airbus NH90 medium-sized multi-role military helicopter, said Clarkson.
“We’ve got a good team over there,” he added. “It’s a heated hall, full dust extraction, with a hydraulic platform installed inside.”
The platform allows workers to lift helicopters off the ground hydraulically so they can paint underneath the aircraft without getting on their hands and knees.
As for the future of Airglaze Aviation, Clarkson is not as coy about the company’s growth strategy as he is about the secret compound that has served it so well in the last 10 years.
“The only way is up,” he said. “You can’t go down. We’ve got potential growth, we’ve got some good clients, and it’s time to build …. We’re aiming to go forward.”
If you would like to see your company featured in Insight, contact Derek Kast at [email protected].