If it is discovered in early service checks that an aircraft’s finish has suffered paint erosion (and if the plane has only been repainted one time in addition to its OEM coating), then in most cases it’s not necessary to completely strip off all existing paint. Instead, painters can abrade the existing coatings on the plane to create a rough coat and apply a new system over the abraded layer.
Planes that have had at least two repaints should be completely stripped and repainted, no matter how new the aircraft is. This is a common occurrence with leased planes that change owners (and paint schemes) every couple of years.
The age of the aircraft also determines if paint should be abraded or stripped. Older planes should be stripped at the time of the intensive D-Check (roughly every five years) and be examined closely for corrosion.
During the stripping process, the aircraft should be washed thoroughly with environmentally friendly cleaners to remove all dirt and debris from the surface and then should dry completely before the next steps. Fragile surfaces should be protected with aluminum masking materials, while paper masking tape is suitable for standard masking uses. Paint strippers work best under warm conditions, so it’s best to allow the airframe and hangar to reach temperatures close to 75 F before starting work. Use airless spray applicators and nonferrous scrapers to avoid damaging the thin protective layer of aluminum clad on the aircraft’s skin.
After this work is completed, then begin the aforementioned surface preparation steps and complete the project with the appropriate topcoat color and clear layers.
A regular paint regimen is a must in an aircraft’s maintenance program. A fresh paint job enhances the aesthetics of any aircraft, boosts image and branding of the company that owns the plane, and, more importantly, protects the aircraft’s surfaces from wear, tear, and corrosion.
J. Marc Taylor is Director of Sales with Sherwin-Williams Aerospace Coatings, www.sherwinwilliams.com/aerospace.
British Airways is the recipient of the 500th new aircraft painted with the Desothane(R) selectively strippable aircraft exterior coatings system.