The other day I made a question about the engine painting and why it isn't painted at the front part. The answer was: to facilitate anti-ice system. 787 Source: fervegeon.com

So perhaps the leading edge of the horizontal and vertical stabilizer have a sort of anti-ice system?

And this is not only on the 787; the 777 also has the leading edges unpainted. 777 Source

And on the 757 and winglet. enter image description here Source: flickr

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Yes, it uses a heated edge system designed to melt the boundary layer of ice on leading edge surfaces. The system is designed by GKN. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Feb 11, 2016 at 21:47
  • $\begingroup$ @JanHudec perhaps there is an option to paint them, with a reduction in icing allowances. $\endgroup$
    – fooot
    Feb 11, 2016 at 22:26
  • $\begingroup$ @JanHudec Not all aircraft have heated horizontal or vertical stabilizers (for instance, the Learjets only have the horizontal stabilizer heated (electrically), and the Falcons don't heat either one at all). $\endgroup$
    – Lnafziger
    Feb 11, 2016 at 22:29
  • $\begingroup$ @JanHudec As I'm sure you know, many aircraft have no anti-icing systems at all, or have only pitot probe heat. I don't think you meant to include these types in your statement, but I just wanted to make sure that is clear to others. $\endgroup$
    – J W
    Feb 11, 2016 at 23:00
  • $\begingroup$ On this video: youtube.com/watch?v=Q_NjnaUKcIk (minute 16:23-16:55) a man is putting a tube on the leading edge of the wing and then covers it with a bare metal. Perhaps the same happens on the leading edge of horizontal and vetical stabilizers. $\endgroup$
    – user13197
    Feb 13, 2016 at 17:10

1 Answer 1


Aircraft stabilizers (both vertical and horizontal) usually have metallic leading edges without paint or anti-erosion paint system. This can be seen in the following figure for Airbus A320 family.


Image from Airbus Structure Training Manual

For aircraft with composite stabilizers, leading edge erosion is arrested by bonding metal to the leading edge, or making the leading edge using metal, as in 787:

The .. leading edge assembly, ..., with an aluminum edge and a fiberglass and paper-honeycomb skin.

In such cases, (as @Todd points out), the leading edge is usually left unpainted in order to prevent paint erosion. This method is used in the leading edge of the main rotor blades of a number of helicopters. In such cases, either the bare metal is left as is or a protective film is used to combat erosion.


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