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I just read an article (published in 2012) telling the special livery for British airways' A320 to celebrate the Olympics game is made to last one year. I assume this mean those aircraft are painted once per year because painting is not free and thus it is reasonnable to change the livery only when painting is already schedule. But because this is a special livery, it may last less than other painting. As this is only assumptions, my question is the following:

How often is an Airbus or a Boeing painted (even without changing the livery)? Does it significally change from on airline to another? Does a special livery change this frequency?

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    $\begingroup$ Its also worth noting that paint is heavy, and hugely affects aerodynamics. $\endgroup$ – Keegan Oct 13 '14 at 20:38
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    $\begingroup$ Seems like the paint weighs about 1100 for a 747. Depending on if they completely strip the old paint or not, the weight could add up pretty quickly. $\endgroup$ – Keegan Oct 13 '14 at 20:52
  • $\begingroup$ @KeeganMcCarthy I suppose the old painting is completely striped when an aircraft is repainted (less weight, begin the painting with a clean surface) and the painting is made wuth specific technics by specialized workers to limit weight and aerodynamic secondary effects. $\endgroup$ – Manu H Oct 14 '14 at 10:30
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As always, it depends. From what I've seen and read, it's usually redone every 5-10 years. This can vary on various factors from paintshop availability, to new color scheme rollout, to deterioration of the previous one due to bad painting, to quality of the paint used. Sometimes, special liveries are just an aviation specific sticker that's put onto an aircraft, other times it's fully painted onto the aircraft, just depending on the airline, the planned length of time for it to be special, and any other considerations.

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    $\begingroup$ Operator changes -> aircraft usually repainted. Mergers (UAL/COA, DAL/NWA, AFR/KLM, AAL/USA...) Events (World Cup, Dubai Shopping Festival, F1 Grand Prix, Santa...) Adverts and/or agressive com (RYR, EZY...) Airlines like American Airlines or Alitalia hasn't changed them for decades, while airlines like Air France or Qantas only made slight changes. Angola Airlines declined the Boeing proposal so two airframes (B772ER and B737) to be delivered has to be painted back to the original scheme. In the end, it highly depends on the airline as said. $\endgroup$ – Karl Stephen Oct 13 '14 at 23:06
  • $\begingroup$ Do you have any references to add in your answer? $\endgroup$ – Manu H Oct 25 '14 at 10:04
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Aircraft on the ground don't make money, so airlines only ever re-paint their aircraft when needed.

It is a regulatory requirement that an aircraft undergoes a thorough inspection - a "D Check", approximately every 6 years. As part of this D-check, the paint is stripped off the aircraft to allow the hull to be thoroughly inspected. As such, most airlines will wait until the aircraft is due for a D check before repainting.

Apart from that, they will only repaint when absolutely necessary, i.e if the paint is deteriorating, or if they change livery and decide they want to remove the old livery quicker than waiting for aircraft to require a D check.

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