By Kimberly Ballard
He’s a banker of 27 years, helping his son get a detailing business off the ground. Mark Fowler decided if Travis was to be successful, his 18-year-old son needed to attend the best detailing training facility in the world. When they both attended Renny Doyle’s Attention to Details in Big Bear Lake, CA, little did they know Doyle would find exceptional promise in Travis’ knack for excellence. When they were chosen for an elite team of 40 of the world’s finest automotive detailers to travel to Seattle’s Museum of Flight where they would detail the original presidential jet plane known as SAM 970 – Air Force One; and a rare WWII B29 Superfortress Bomber known as T-Square 54; Mark found the opportunity exhilarating in his own right.
In spite of AFOs notoriety, it hasn’t been detailed in 3 years and sits out on the tarmac at the museum’s adjoining Boeing Field, fully exposed to Seattle’s brutal elements. Constant acidic-like rain and contaminants have etched the bare aluminum (brightwork) and paint, giving it a streaked and cloudy appearance. Likewise, the B29 hadn’t been cleaned since the 1940s when it was flying sorties over the Pacific. Chalky in appearance due to oxidation, this was not going to be an easy job for the fledgling father-son detailing team.
Turned down by the bank where he worked when requesting time off for the Seattle jaunt with his son, Mark simply resigned, changing careers in a daring move that surprised even him. “How many chances do you get to detail a museum piece, much less two historic icons of American aviation history?”, Mark asks.
“Travis is a perfectionist to the nth degree,” says his mother Chelle, a real estate agent in Medford who actually sold a house to pay for Mark and Travis’ training. “His being successful in a business that requires precision is not surprising.”
The father-son team joined 38 other detailers, handpicked out of over 250 by Doyle, to attend the pro bono event; all detailers paying their own way and donating their time and materials to the project.
Armed with Meguiars Pro Line polish for the paint, Rolite aluminum polish for the brightwork, and a Flex XC 3401 Dual Action Orbital polisher, the Fowlers strapped themselves into a harness and were propelled 40 feet into the air in a bucket lift to detail the empennage or tailfin of the presidential Boeing 707-120, as well as the plane’s entranceway and part of its massive engines with its brightwork rings.
The Flex 3401 with its orbital rather than circular buffer was a technique not used on AFO before, yet very popular in car detailing. Doyle, the project coordinator, had a theory that the appliance with its simulation hand movement would be less likely to cause holograms, and with its larger stroke length, would spread the polish over a larger area to produce a more consistent result than 40 individuals would. His theory was correct and proved very effective.
After 4 days, they moved over to the B29 where the entire team used Heavy Metal polish to work on the ‘tube’, or fuselage of the Bomber, made completely of bare aluminum. Currently located in a restoration hangar where a team is restoring the bomber’s shrapnel-scarred wings, the Bomber was rescued by the museum from abandonment at an airfield in the Arizona desert.
Mark and Travis started Pristine Detailing as an eco-friendly mobile detailing business, but within the past couple of months, leased a building where they now provide a waterless carwash using a special formula of chemicals that virtually lifts the dirt off the car’s surface. This “green” cleaning process allows them to clean a car prior to detailing it, in a carpeted indoor environment where there are no ecological concerns about water runoff.
For more information about Mark and Travis Fowler’s participation on the Air Force One project, call them at 541-944-2667.