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Painting versus Polishing of Airplane Exterior Surfaces Aero paper decision to paint or polish the metal surfaces of airplanes is based on marketing, economic, and environmental considerations. Although the net operating cost of polished airplanes is slightly more than that of painted airplanes, no compelling reason generally exists to choose one type of livery over the other.
The result is a world fleet made up of airplanes with surfaces that are mostly painted, mostly polished, or both painted and polished. Operators of commercial airplanes base their decisions to paint or polish exterior airplane surfaces on several considerations.
Short- and long-term business requirements, as well as the availability of financial, labor, and material resources, must be evaluated when considering the following factors: Marketing Because the colors, patterns, and symbols on the exterior of airplanes convey an image to the public, marketing considerations hold substantial weight in the decision to paint or polish.
While some operators believe that their image is best presented with a decorative paint scheme, others believe that a polished surface works best. Once established, the markings become the most visible identifier of an operator at any airport, and they are often retained for many years.
Cost Operators must consider Aero paper the factors that contribute to total cost when deciding between painting or polishing their airplanes: However, full-fuselage painting, unusual markings, and late revisions may cost more.
All exterior airplane paint can be classified either as decorative, which includes an operator's markings, or as protective, which is light gray in color.
Protective paint is used in certain areas to prevent corrosion, and it is used on all composites to prevent erosion and moisture ingress.
These composite areas include wing fairings, control surfaces, radomes, tail cones, engine nacelles, and large portions of the empennage. For this reason, even polished airplanes use a considerable amount of protective paint.
Decorative paint schemes generally use a minimum of 3 or 4 colors and a maximum of 14 or 15 colors applied to the upper half of the fuselage and to the vertical stabilizer and rudder. These schemes are also applied to the horizontal stabilizer and elevator on Douglas-designed airplanes.
A base color is applied first, followed by stripes, lettering, and logos. Polished airplanes forgo the base color, restricting the use of decorative paint to stripes, the operator's name and registry number, and logos.
Most repaint their airplanes every four years, often during a scheduled C- or D-check, but do not completely strip the paint during each cycle.
Instead, they alternate between complete stripping and merely scuff-sanding the existing paint layer and applying a new topcoat. Painting costs include labor, stripper, paint, primer, masking materials, and proper disposal of consumables.
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Airplanes should never carry more than two layers of paint. With more than two layers, operating efficiency drops, inspections become more difficult, and corrosion can start in chips that remain under a fresh topcoat. Excessive paint buildup is a particular concern on aging airplanes, as the buildup may cause difficulty during inspection of the rows of rivets and lap splices that connect fuselage panels.
Maintaining the appearance of a polished airplane requires repolishing up to three times a year with a special compound applied with mechanical buffers, as well as regular washing to clean oxidation buildup from unpainted surfaces.
Both activities require a considerable investment in buffing equipment and personnel.
Periodic maintenance can be performed while a polished airplane is being repolished, but not while a painted airplane is being stripped and repainted. While the lighter weight of a polished airplane saves fuel costs, as shown in table 1this savings is more than offset by the higher cost of washing, polishing, and painting a polished fuselage throughout its service life table 2.Paper aeroplanes, are great fun to make.
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