When an aircraft rolls off the production lines, the term used for it in English is a green because of the green-coloured anti-corrosion paint applied to the body. Clearly not a great look for an airline.
As a result, going through the painting hall to get your aircraft painted to your colours is mandatory. But before painting it, the surface has to be primed first.
Jean-Jacques Boyer, managing director of the STTS group explains: “The surface has to be stripped or sanded to thin out the top layer. Stripping is achieved by using an acid stripper or peroxide and sanding is done using sanding paper that looks a lot like the domestic ‘brite’ sponges used for washing up.”
New aircraft aren’t the only ones to get painted. Over the course of its lifetime, an aircraft gets repainted several times. A short haul aircraft is repainted every 5 years and a long haul one, every 7 years. This process can take from 6 to 13 days according to the type of aircraft. Once the surface is ready, the aircraft is washed, either with water or solvent-soaked wipes and only then, can the painting phase per se actually begin.
“There are three different layers “, explains Jean-Jacques Boyer, “ the first is a bonding coat, the second an anti-corrosion coat and lastly, the one that passengers see, the livery coat.”
It’s a very fine coat then, that’s only between 0.006” and 0.014” thick. A layer of varnish to finish things off and the aircraft is ready to go. It takes many gallons of paint in all: about 33 gallons for 9700 sq. feet on short haul aircraft and about 110 gallons for 43000 sq. feet on long haul ones, like the A380.