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How is an aircraft painted?

I've always wondered how an air plane was painted and what steps it required to accomplish this task.

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    $\begingroup$ Pretty much like a car, but ten times more expensive ;). $\endgroup$ – John K Jul 13 '18 at 20:52
  • $\begingroup$ @JohnK Haha! EXACTLY like that! :)) $\endgroup$ – FallenUser Jul 13 '18 at 22:03
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    $\begingroup$ @JohnK So somewhere there is a $3000 MAACO airplane paint job available?) $\endgroup$ – Pilothead Jul 14 '18 at 0:25
  • $\begingroup$ The modern paints on aircraft can be nasty stuff. At a manufacturer I once worked at they switched from acrylic enamel paint to polyurethane with epoxy zinc chromate primer. The polyurethane had isocyanates in it, which can get you sick if it gets on your skin. They had painted several aircraft with the traditional protective equipment, with a number of sick painters, before they discovered you have to wear a positive pressure suit with that stuff. This was in the 80s, so maybe the paints now are safer. $\endgroup$ – John K Jul 14 '18 at 1:18
  • $\begingroup$ More like 30 times more expensive. You don't realize how big an airplane is on the outside until you wash one! Taking all the non-metal fairings off, stripping the metal, maybe cleaning up some surface corrosion, applying chromate or alodyne, then primer, then 2 coats of paint, putting all the fairings back on, changing a window or two, applying a trim color or two and the registration, it all takes time. $\endgroup$ – CrossRoads Jul 14 '18 at 1:58
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Prestige Aircraft Inc describes the process here: http://www.paintaircraft.com/the-process.html

Upon delivery of the aircraft a thorough inspection will be made with the owner. At this time any details and or problem areas will be defined prior to starting. Items such as windows, plastic parts, dents and corrosion will be discussed.

All control surfaces, inspection plates, cowlings and fairings will be removed prior to stripping.

Engine and remaining plastic/fiberglass parts will be covered with protective aluminum tape or plastic as appropriate.

Airframe will be chemically stripped, removing all old paint and primers using aircraft grade paint strippers.

Airframe will be pressure washed with hot water to remove any stripper residue.

Airframe will be acid etched and “Alodyned” to further clean and enhance paint adhesion.

Airframe will be further cleaned with mineral spirits prior to priming with epoxy chromate primer.

Aircraft epoxy primer will be lightly sanded. At this time any dents and scratches will be repaired and reprimed.

All fiberglass and plastic parts will be sanded and repaired as necessary, primed and prepared for top coating.

Airframe and parts will be top coated with 3 coats Aircraft Grade Jet-Glo or Dupont Polyurethane paint. Trim colors, Reg. #’s and appropriate logos and placards will be applied.

After painting, control surfaces are checked for balance as per mfg. Instructions. Hinges and control linkages are lubed prior to re-installation with new hardware.

Freshly painted inspection plates and fairings are installed using new stainless steel screws and nylon washers.

New stainless steel cowling fasteners are installed at an extra cost where appropriate. Wing walk is applied and new rubber wing root moldings are installed,(low wing aircraft).

Windows are polished, interior is cleaned and vacuumed.

A final inspection is made with emphasis on detail and overall quality.

All appropriate log book entries are made and signed.

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  • $\begingroup$ What's the reason for the downvote? This is right from the shop that does it, and is painting my plane in the fall. Very well respected too. $\endgroup$ – CrossRoads Jul 13 '18 at 19:36
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    $\begingroup$ Additional bit: For large corporate aircraft, it is common to use lots and lots of filler primer, enough to completely fill in the surface features of the flush riveting. Look at a Global Express and you will think the fuselage is made from gelcoated fiberglass. $\endgroup$ – John K Jul 14 '18 at 1:44

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