How to paint a plane? Qantas updates 200+ jets in new livery
The old saying goes there is nothing more boring than watching paint dry.
Maybe that is the case if you are staring at a wall but what about a 63-metre-long, 16-metre-high Airbus A330-300?
Australia’s Qantas Airways started to repaint more than 200 aircraft in its new livery in time for the airline’s 100th birthday in 2020.
The update is being sequenced with scheduled aircraft re-paints to avoid extra cost.
It is 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  the airline is 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 (Image by Wal Nelowkin)
How to paint a plane
First, the original paint must be removed and the aircraft all scrubbed clean. 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 kg or 1,102 lbs).
As part of the preparation, the plane’s doors, windows and engines are taped up. Even the windscreen wipers are removed.
Qantas uses 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 would paint an undercoat on your house, primers are used to help seal the fuselage and protect it from corrosion.
The white base color is added, followed by the iconic red tail, wording, shading, and silver bands.
Then the aircraft is covered in paper, just like a stencil so colors do not bleed into one another.
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 Qantas’ largest aircraft.
The airline’s aircraft are usually repainted every 10 years but they are given a wash every month.
This is done to not only keep the planes looking smart but grime and dust which builds up on the aircraft skin reduces the aerodynamics making it less efficient during flight.
The first QantasLink aircraft has rolled out of the paint shop with the new livery and there is a lot more aircraft to get the same treatment by the carrier’s 100th birthday.
New ‘roo in the west: Fokker 100 in QantasLink “new ‘roo“ livery (Image by Bidgee)
You can read more about Qantas’ new livery and the history of its old ones by clicking here.
Check out the time-lapse below to see how Qantas’ A330 was the first to sport the new ‘roo.
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