Today I saw the following picture of the B747-400 SuperTanker, which shows a black painted region below the cockpit windows.

B747-400 SuperTanker

I have also seen vintage pictures of other aircraft that also had this black painted region.

What is the purpose of the black paint? Is it for decorative purposes?


3 Answers 3


It reduces glare (specular reflection).

Football players paint black stripes under their eyes for the same reason.

enter image description here

The legend for the paint scheme is excerpted in the inset, upper right. Item #33 "Antiglare areas shall be painted aircraft black."

If you read this technical manual, which is publicly available, it describes in the body of the text the use of anti-glare paint.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Note - you use the term "specular reflection" which relates to the surface texture. The color provides low Lambertian reflectivity. The coating has to have both properties - be matte (for specular) and black (for Lambertian) reflection in order to minimize the glare. Such glare tends to combine with small surface imperfections in the window (from erosion) to lead to haze - which in turn limits the contrast of the view through the window (even if you can't directly "see" the region in front of the window from the pilot's seat). $\endgroup$
    – Floris
    Jan 29, 2017 at 15:47

The 747-400 in the question is rather new in the fleet. It was converted and painted for this role around Jan 2016.

The choice is aesthetic because anti-glare paint is nowadays available in all colors, compared to 3 or 4 decades past. So if the tech is there to paint it white, but they've deliberately settled for a retro theme, then it is no longer a matter of function.

My point is, if the 747 in question lacked a black area, that would not mean it lacks anti-glare.

Also related regarding vintage liveries: Why did most airliners have black noses in the 60's and 70's?

  • $\begingroup$ Since we have good reason to believe that the black paint used on the 747 in question is indeed for the function of anti-glare—even though other color choices might be an option—I don't think it follows that the choice is merely aesthetic. Contributing factors to the choice may well have included function, tradition, fleet consistency, paint in stock, and materials cost. I think the best answer to this question is that the purpose or function is anti-glare. However, it is also worth pointing out—as you have done—that aesthetics may have played a role in the decision making process. $\endgroup$
    – J W
    Jan 29, 2017 at 15:33

I was an air force pilot and instructor. I flew the same aircraft in the training role and also operationally. In the training role it had the blacked out nose but operationally it didn't.

When we were training, it was supposedly easier to visually set and hold attitudes when flying towards the sun, less glare and more contrast.

However I never found it to make any difference. Here are two of the aircraft I flew.

Pilatus PC9 from the RAAF 2nd Flight Training School Pilatus PC9 In the Forwad Air Combat Role


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