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Giving Planes Coats of Many Colors

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

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Just how much work goes into painting a brand-new jumbo jet? One U.S. airline decided to give online video viewers a little taste of what the process is like.

In a time-lapse video Southwest Airlines posted to YouTube, the company showed a protective coating crew in action as it painted a factory-fresh Boeing 737. Slate linked to the video Thursday (Jan. 14) when it also described the level of detail that goes into painting an airplane—and how much it costs.

According to the online journal, new airplanes get an anti-corrosive coating that protects their aluminum skin. Because that coating is green, industry insiders refer to them as “green jets.”

But green isn't always the way to go. The coating has to be washed off before applying an airline’s color scheme, Slate said. The jets then get a light gray primer.

Southwest’s Heart

As Southwest showed in its video, the paint crew sported respirators and protective clothing as they spent hours masking, spraying, sanding and peeling each layer.

Painters show what it takes to coat a brand-new Southwest Airlines jumbo jet.

For the airline’s “Southwest Heart” (the design it reportedly switched to in 2014), painters started with the company’s name before applying the dark blue body; yellow- and red-striped tail; and finally the tricolored heart. Each layer takes about 12 hours to apply, Slate noted.

The journal reported that a re-coating job works a little different. Workers have to remove whatever coating is on a plane before they can begin refreshing it. To expedite the process so it can be completed in 24 hours, the liquid stripper used for this is kept at 25 degrees Celsius (77 degrees Fahrenheit).

By the Numbers

This craftsmanship comes at a price. Costs range between $100,000 to $200,000, depending on the colors and level of detail involved, Slate reported.

Paint also make the planes heavier. The dry coatings on a 777 add about 555 pounds to the weight of the aircraft, Slate reported. When wet, the coatings add more than 1,000 pounds.


Tagged categories: Aerospace; Color; Color + Design; Paint application

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