It’s All in the Details

Local detailer Ian Porter was chosen for the Air Force One Detailing Team that has descended on the Seattle Museum of Flight this summer.


Ian Porter details an airplane at the Seattle Museum of Flight.


When Ian Porter, owner of Red Beard’s Detail Shop in Tulsa, polishes the fuselage of the B-29 bomber at the Seattle Museum of Flight, he’s touching an aircraft that flew through warzones during World War II. When he enters the Boeing VC-137B, the first jet-powered Air Force One, he’s following the footsteps of former Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon.

Porter did not expect to eventually join a team of 65 responsible for maintaining some of America’s most iconic aircraft when he began detailing at a local car dealership after graduating from Broken Arrow High School. Now in his second year (the first being 2016) on the annual Air Force One Detailing Team, he says, “It’s a surreal moment that you have to step back and realize what you’re doing and the magnitude of the task.” 

The Air Force One Detailing Team that has descended on the Seattle Museum of Flight for the past 15 years is comprised of volunteers from the Detailers’ Network — or Detail Mafia. Coming from across the United States, these detailers choose to join the group after completing Detailing Success, Renny Doyle’s advanced, 5-day detailing school. This niche group maintains contact throughout the year, trading detailing tips and business ideas.

The detailers who travel to Seattle are chosen for their outstanding dedication and participation with the group. This year, Porter has a distinguished position within the elite group: He is the team leader of a group of 10, responsible for organizing some of the chaos of 65 detailers working 10 hour days on numerous aircraft.

From July 15-22, the Detailing Team’s main tasks included detailing Air Force One (of course); polishing the “Alpha Golf” Concorde; polishing the thrusters on the Boeing 747, the first “Jumbo Jet”; polishing the fuselage on the Boeing B-29 Superfortress; and preserving the first Boeing 727. Porter says the most difficult task is “brightwork,” especially if they’re touching an aircraft for the first time. Brightwork involves polishing the metal on the aircraft, removing the defects and oxidation so that it looks shiny and glossy, like it is brand new and hasn’t spent years flying through the air, clouds and smog.

Porter doesn’t know of any other museums that allow detailers unassociated with the museum to preserve their aircraft; he speculates that the Seattle Museum of Flight chooses to do so because the exhibit is open air, with the planes permanently sitting under canopies and exposed to some elements.

Regardless of the reason for his involvement, Porter is proud to have this unique opportunity, recognizing the importance of “preserving these iconic aircraft for generations to come.”


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