How do we paint a plane?

Published on 18th July 2017 at 14:42

Flying silver fox: All scrubbed clean ready for painting

The old saying goes there is nothing more boring than watching paint dry.

Maybe that’s the case if you’re staring at a wall but what about a 63-metre-long, 16-metre-high Airbus A330-300?

We’ve just started to repaint more than 200 aircraft in our new livery in time for our 100th birthday in 2020.

The update is being sequenced with scheduled aircraft re-paints to avoid extra cost.

It’s only the fifth time the red-and-white logo on the tail of Qantas aircraft has been updated since it was first introduced in 1944.

The last update was in 2007 to coincide with the introduction of the Airbus A380 to Qantas and this time we’re getting ready to welcome the Boeing 787 to the fleet.

A nod to the past:  Every aircraft will feature the winged kangaroo which debuted in 1954

How to paint a plane

First, the original paint must be removed. While it would be faster to just paint over the existing coat, that would add a lot of weight to the aircraft (in the case of an A380, the paint alone weighs more than 500 kilograms).

As part of the preparation, the plane’s doors, windows and engines are taped up. Even the windscreen wipers are removed.

We use an environmentally friendly chemical agent to help strip back the paint, then sand down the aircraft and give it a quick rinse, finally revealing the metal skin.

This process can take a few days and involves a fair bit of elbow grease.

Then the first coat is applied using a low-pressure hose to give it an even finish. Just like you’d paint an undercoat on your house, primers are used to help seal the fuselage and protect it from corrosion.

The white base colour is added, followed by the iconic red tail, wording, shading, and silver bands.

We cover the aircraft in paper, just like a stencil so colours don’t bleed into one another.

And we’re done: Va Va Voom VXM

A final clear top-coat is applied creating a high gloss, fresh out-of-the-factory look.

Repainting is a big task and can take a few weeks for our largest aircraft.

Our aircraft are usually repainted every 10 years but they’re given a wash every month.

This is done to not only keep our planes looking smart but grime and dust which builds up on the aircraft skin reduces the aerodynamics making it less efficient during flight.

Our first QantasLink aircraft has rolled out of the paint shop with the new livery and there’s a lot more aircraft to get the same treatment by our 100th birthday.

New ‘roo in the west: Our first F100 in the new livery can be spotted out of Perth

You can read more about our new livery and the history of our old ones by clicking here.

Check out the time-lapse below to see how our A330 was the first to sport the new ‘roo.

*Special thanks to Alvin Chua at Network Aviation for sending through some pics of our new ‘roo.