Aircraft Painting

What do you do when you get a lemon or an abandoned Navy air field? Build a big new paint hangar, teach people to paint, and sell lemonade.

On Jan. 10, 2011, FSCJ students began pursuing their Aircraft Coatings Technician certificates from Florida Coast Career Tech, a division of FSCJ. I contacted Aircraft Coating Technician program instructor, Terry Perry to discuss the brand new program. Perry is a retired Navy aircraft structural mechanic who specialized in aircraft corrosion control and painting. FSCJ had just graduated the first class of nine students and was starting the second. Ages of the first class ranged between 18 and 22, eight were recent high school grads, one a retired Navy vet, and one was from the construction trades.

Perry says, “Aircraft painting is a fast track into the aviation maintenance industry. MRO and painting contractors are always looking for skilled and experienced aircraft painters. Five students from the first class have already found jobs. We have a great program specifically designed to help students quickly develop the fundamentals and practical skills necessary to become a professional aircraft painter.” The Aircraft Coating Technician program is a 16-week, 600-hour program with a 40-hour (minimum) internship.

Students get classroom work in aircraft painting, occupational safety and health, environmental protection requirements, aircraft structures, aircraft corrosion control, paint removal systems and processes, and various aircraft coatings systems. They are taught to paint aircraft ranging from Cessna 150s to B-767s using Aero Chem, Akzo Nobel, DuPont, and Sherwin-Williams painting and chemical stripping products. They practice with DeVilbiss, Binks, and Ransburg electrostatic paint guns, layout tools, and tape and paper rollers.

Students are currently able to practice on aircraft subassemblies and 30-foot fuselage sections that were removed by Flightstar during passenger-to-cargo conversions. Eventually, both large and small aircraft refinishing will be integral parts of the course of instruction. With the schoolhouse directly adjacent to the MRO facility, students have the opportunity to experience not only classroom and curriculum coatings instruction, but also hands-on participation in coatings projects and other MRO maintenance activities in the facility. With the internship opportunities being expanded, many students can expect to find employment immediately following program completion.

FSCJ is also in the process of purchasing two virtual reality spray paint training systems developed by the University of Northern Iowa, Iowa Waste Reduction Center. Students will have the ability to get unlimited practice without having to go through the expensive and time-consuming steps of mixing paints, waiting for their projects to dry, and cleaning equipment, and it completely eliminates hazardous waste. (Editor’s Note: See the article on STAR4D virtual paint training in the next issue of AMT.)

MRO Flightstar and Associated Painters Inc.

Tucker Morrison and Reed Friese gave me a top down view of the aircraft coating operations at the Cecil Field paint hangar. Morrison is the Flightstar Aircraft Services COO and Friese is manager of Associated Painters Inc. - Jacksonville Paint Operations. Flightstar manages the MRO operations and Associated Painters Inc. (AP) is the in-house painting contractor. According to Friese, it takes a 30 person crew seven days, working two and a half shifts, to paint a narrow-body aircraft. It takes eight to nine days to paint a B-767 type aircraft. They typically use about 50 to 75 gallons of paint for a B-737 type aircraft. Most AP customers choose paints that are designated by airline or operator engineers and approved by the aircraft OEM.

FSCJ aircraft coating program internship

I asked Morrison and Friese about their involvement in the FSCJ Aircraft Coating Technician Program. It was very obvious that they were proud of their participation and helping bring this facility and educational program to fruition. Flightstar also donated $26,500 to a five-year scholarship fund. Morrison says that his company is committed long term to working with the FSCJ to facilitate students’ learning experience. Friese agrees as well. They feel that this was a big win for the Jacksonville area and the aviation industry.

Friese says that it has been a challenge for aircraft painting companies to find trained and qualified aircraft finishers. Now they have the opportunity to help develop a training curriculum for refinishers and to meet and observe those technicians that had chosen refinishing as a career field.

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