Fighting foam: Airbus leverages innovation in order to help keep a river clean

Eco landing gear cleaning (© Airbus)
Eco landing gear cleaning (© Airbus)

Airbus has marked another environmental achievement with its introduction of an innovative new method for cleaning aircraft landing gear in Toulouse, France – which was specifically developed to prevent the discharge of foaming, non-toxic waste water in the nearby Touch River.

As part of Airbus’ regular aircraft assembly process, their landing gear are cleaned outdoors using wipes or sponges with detergent and water. “Foam was regularly being seen on the surface of the Touch, and after some investigation, we found it was being caused by this process,” explained Elisabeth Dauba, who is in charge of the environment for Airbus’ final assembly lines.

This foam is non-toxic as the individual products used are biodegradable, but it was clearly having a visible effect on the river. A temporary system was put in place to stop the foam from being discharged, while in parallel a more permanent solution was sought.

A special team to tackle this challenge was set up with the help of Atalian, the company that is responsible for cleaning aircraft landing gear on site, and effective measures were identified and subsequently implemented.

To prevent the foam from reaching the Touch moving forward, a sausage-shaped container is now fitted into a gutter and inflated to store the water – which is then sucked out and injected into special cisterns with a double lining. Sita, the company in charge of managing waste water on site, then treats these containers. Additionally, a special anti-foaming agent is added to the detergent to reduce the amount of foam produced in the guttering, as well as on the ground.

This new process has been tested and works successfully at all of the outside work locations. It is a highly-portable solution that Atalian can now deploy anywhere on the site, and is set to be used for the A350 XWB final assembly line that also is located in Toulouse.


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