Commercial Aircraft Painting Process Explained
In the first two parts of the article, we covered the painting process with all the vital steps. The last part is dedicated for some background information associated with aircraft painting.
What Types of Paints Are Used on Aircraft?
There are two paint types used in aviation: Epoxy and Enamel.
Epoxy Paints: Epoxy paints areof polyurethane type anddon’t chip or crack as the paint layer is not becoming brittle over time: the paint layer is flexible. It provides better chemical and heat resistant abilities as well. As the paint isn’t oxidizing, the glossy look will be maintained over a long period. Generates harmful gasses when paint spraying.
Enamel Paints: Resistant to chemicals and harsh environmental conditions without fading the look. The paint becomes brittle and tends to crack over the bends. Less expensive compared to Epoxy paints and showing less impact on health and the environment.
In some cases, a blend of Epoxy and Enamel paints is used to perform a more superior paint job.
How Often Should an Aircraft be Painted?
Generally speaking, every 7 to 10 years. This may depend on many factors such as operating region, purpose, and age of the aircraft. With state-of-the-art painting methods, aircraft can have long-lasting paint works, extending the painting frequency up to 10 years.
On occasions like re-branding, change of the owner, and merges, all the airplanes in the fleet should be repainted. The best example for this is American Airlines Painting their whole fleet (a massive number of 992 airplanes!) with a new livery saying good-bye to their unique bare metal concept.
How Long Does it Take to Paint an Aircraft?
The whole process usually completes with a time of one week to two weeks. The exact time depends mainly on the size of the aircraft and the type of design. Smaller, narrow-body airplanes may take up to one week, while wide-bodies may take up to two weeks. Designs containing tiny details take longer than normal paintings as painters have to finish with paintbrushes by hand.
All Nippon Airlines (ANA) wanted to have a special design on their superjumbo named “flying Honu,” and as per the airlineratings.com (https://www.airlineratings.com/news/anas-a380-complex-aircraft-paint-job-ever/) this is the most complex paint job ever done by the Airbus. It took almost 21 days and 8,000 man hours to give this interesting look to the aircraft. (Include some pictures of the flying Honu)
It’s super important to keep the paint of an aircraft up to the required quality. It can save money for the airlines in the long run and minimizes ground times as well. Small paint touchups can be made to maintain the paint film’s integrity if happened to find a crack or a dent on the paint film.
You have made it to the end!
Oh, we forgot! Remember that SUPER INTERESTING fact that we promised you to reveal in the end, Here it is!
We are not painting all the aircraft on earth; we leave some airplanes flying with their bare Aluminum fuselages exposed! Once American Airlines was a pioneer of maintaining airplanes with polished exteriors. Large percentage of their fleet was polished to give a unique look. Later they changed their mind and switched to painted airplanes with the rebranding.