3701 Aviation Road
Lincoln, NE 68524
More Than Skin Deep: Paint, Maintenance & Turbine Aircraft Value
A Duncan Aviation Whitepaper By George Bajo, Nate Klenke & Doug Bohac
Aircraft paint can beautifully reflect hours of painstaking care and preparation. Or it can cover a multitude of sins. The trouble is, you can’t always tell which applies to your aircraft until long after the job is finished.
Paint serves a purpose that goes far deeper than a glossy exterior. It’s also a thin, protective shell that serves as an aircraft’s only line of defense against the elements. When that shell is improperly applied or begins to fail with age, the risk of corrosion increases and the structural integrity of an aircraft’s aluminum skin is placed in jeopardy.
To maintain the bottom line, owners and operators are frequently enticed by lower costs. What they don’t know about the low-cost differences can ultimately cost more than expected. More than one aircraft has been stripped for new paint only to discover extensive corrosion and hefty structural repair costs. Those damages—and costs—can be prevented.
This document explores the topics of routine maintenance and turbine aircraft market value, and criteria to consider when selecting a service provider.
The Longevity of Paint Finishes
The environment naturally wears down the integrity of paint finishes over the course of several years. Extreme temperatures, corrosive environments and sun damage all take their toll.
The longevity of a finish depends on several factors, which include: the paint process, technician experience, product durability and routine maintenance. Although well-maintained, quality paint finishes can look immaculate for more than a decade, “paint manufacturers recommend repainting every five to six years,” says George Bajo, Completions Sales Representative at Duncan Aviation-Battle Creek.
Cracks along seams and chips from debris are inevitable with aircraft operation and become more numerous as a finish ages, says George. They aren’t always obvious, but visual inspections can help reveal areas where the integrity of the paint finish has been compromised and touchups are necessary.
Preventive Maintenance & Aircraft Market Value
Will an aircraft develop corrosion if it’s not repainted according to manufacturer recommendations? It varies, says George. An aircraft kept in a quality coat of paint is less likely to develop corrosion, but there is no process or product that can assure complete corrosion prevention. For this reason, aircraft should be stripped, inspected for corrosion and repainted by a reputable aircraft paint facility on a regular basis.
“It’s a huge investment,” says George, “but it’s necessary to prevent maintenance problems from developing.”
Besides posing a higher risk for corrosion, inferior or old paint can cause electrical problems affecting comm radios and navigation receivers. Many aircraft manufacturers have “continuing maintenance instructions” for Reduced Vertical Separation Minimum (RVSM) aircraft, which require that paint finishes around static ports be kept in “new condition.” Paint chips disrupt the airflow over the static-sensing areas, which can cause altitude errors.
Additionally, prospective aircraft buyers and sellers will consider not only the current condition of the paint, but also how often the aircraft received a high-quality exterior refurbishment. Turbine aircraft that have been painted every five years have been observed to maintain a higher market value.
Routine Maintenance & Paint Integrity
Protecting an aircraft from the elements is critical to maintaining the long-term integrity of a paint finish. Hangaring an aircraft for long-term storage reduces sun damage and moisture exposure and helps avoid severe weather damage. Frequent and thorough cleaning also helps remove damaging surface contaminants.
Products containing alcohol or ammonia, which are typically found in glass cleaners, can damage a new paint finish and shorten its lifespan, says Doug Bohac, Duncan Aviation’s Paint Shop Manager. “A recommended cleaner will have a neutral pH level.”
Waxes containing silicone should be avoided, as it may affect adhesion for paint touchups.
Products containing Teflon have been promoted as a secondary, added protection to make dirt removal easier. “I have customers who love it, and others who have just the opposite reaction,” says Nate Klenke, Completions Sales Representative at Duncan Aviation-Lincoln.
Like wax, Teflon Coatings will degrade over time and need to be re-applied regularly to be effective. However, there may be some indications that these coatings cause similar adhesion issues with paint touchups as silicone, says Nate.
Environments with high levels of airborne salt are known to be particularly corrosive, says George. He encourages operators to maintain constant vigilance with their paint finishes in all conditions and circumstances by visually inspecting for chips and cracks and touching them up on a regular basis.
“Customers have told us that we do such a great paint job often ten years go by and it still looks great,” says George. “They also take immaculate care of their aircraft.”
Application Processes & Paint Adhesion
“Many people think gloss is an indicator of a quality paint job,” says George. “It’s an indicator, but it’s not the indicator. It can be glossy outside, but underneath there’s more going on.”
To achieve a quality paint finish, surfaces must be properly prepared and protective layers applied, one coat at a time.
Every service provider should apply paint by the book, says George. A quality company will follow documented procedures and perform adequate skin preparation for every paint job. “Manufacturers have a documented procedure for this in their manuals, and most are the same,” he says.
After an aircraft has been stripped and sanded, the skin must be cleaned and prepared to receive primer. This is essential to achieving good paint adhesion.
A surface preparation method called for by most Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) maintenance manuals is an acid “chemical etch” and alodine process, says Doug. Etching opens the pores in the aluminum skin and removes impurities. Alodine prevents corrosion and acts as an adhesion promoter. This process can corrode steel fasteners. Exposure to chromium poses a health risk to paint technicians and the process requires special disposal procedures, both of which are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
A chrome-free process is also being adopted by some manufacturers that achieves more durability without the health or environmental risks, says Doug. An application of a pre-coat product followed by a clean water rinse prepares the surface for a chrome-free primer. In this process, the primer, primer fill and paint products use the same chrome-free base, which allows for better adhesion between the protective layers and a more durable finish.
How To Recognize A Quality Finish
“Anyone can shoot a glossy coat of paint,” says George, but the truth is in the details.
A visual inspection for dirt specs in the paint finish is one identifier of a quality job. While some dirt specs should be expected, numerous dirt specs should be cause for concern, says George.
Resealed windows and painted landing gear are also evidence of attention to detail and a job done right. New stair treads, dressed boots, wiped down wheels and wheel wells, painting inside of gear doors, radome boots that don’t yellow and erosion tape are also extras that customers should expect.
“It’s all about the details,” says George. “That’s what you pay for.”
Factors To Consider When Choosing A Service Provider
When reviewing the pricing and downtime of a paint facility, take as many factors into consideration as possible. Keep in mind that inspections may identify unanticipated service items. Look for a detailed price quote that accurately represents the scope of the project. Brief or generalized price quotes can overlook services and fees that can significantly drive up the cost of a paint refurbishment.
Technician experience is a critical component to a quality paint job. Even the best paint products must be properly applied to achieve the best, protective finish.
Ask about manufacturer relationships and repair capabilities. Plan for possible corrosion, fuel leaks and other problems prior to scheduling service, as this can impact downtime and cost considerations. Technical representatives must also be able to collaborate with the OEM for repair tolerances.
Inspection capabilities are essential. A&P corrosion inspections, flight control and instrument inspections, and a paint sign-off are necessary.
Find out if antennas will be painted, as some units are more sensitive than others to the paint process.
Review paint procedures and verify that your aircraft will be chemically stripped, cleaned and adequately prepared before the application of primer.
Have your skin inspected and set up a time to look your aircraft over with the maintenance technician.
Paint facilities should include systems that reduce over-spray and EPA-approved hazardous waste disposal procedures.
Compliance with OEM and FAA-approved paint procedures ensure that work is done correctly.
A warranty obligates a service provider to address problems after the aircraft is delivered. Check the terms and conditions to make sure that workmanship is covered for a reasonable period of time for potential problems to become known.
Customer references are an indicator of work quality and general customer satisfaction.
Duncan Aviation’s Aircraft Paint Services
Every paint facility has access to the same tools and materials. The difference lies in knowing how to use them to their maximum advantage, and having the dedication to put in the hours required to complete the job properly. This is what distinguishes Duncan Aviation’s paint services.
We have been providing some of the most beautiful and durable aircraft paint finishes in the industry for more than 25 years. Our paint technicians are among the most experienced in the industry, and our full-service facilities have near comprehensive repair capabilities.
Some of the defining elements customers have come to expect from Duncan Aviation include being involved in all aspects of project planning and having access to project managers and technicians on the floor.
A three-year, 1,500 hour warranty on workmanship is provided for all paint finishes.
A professional designer is dedicated to each project, working with you and the paint team to create a customized paint scheme. They stay with you from the initial renderings, through stripe layout, to the final delivery of your aircraft.
An incoming evaluation and extensive debrief are provided. Any discrepancies or squawks are noted for repair. The Paint Shop Team Leader, Project Manager, Designer and customer outline the details of the project together.
Quality paint booths significantly reduce rework by virtually eliminating over-spray, and produce a very high quality product.
Strip hangars service most large and small business aircraft in operation. They include a pre-treatment plant and a system to process hazardous waste in accordance with EPA regulations.
Paint processes are performed by the book, and provide a longer-lasting appearance. Steps are also taken to make access panels easier to remove after the aircraft is delivered.
An extensive final detail process will take between 150 and 300 hours.
Paint touch-up kits are provided as a courtesy, and include gloves, stir sticks and a few quarts of the paint used in the aircraft’s design.
Our experienced sales representatives will gladly answer questions about our painting systems and methods. Request an estimate and scheduling proposal today at http://www.DuncanAviation.aero/interior, or call a Paint & Interior Sales Representative for more information.
Duncan Aviation’s Aircraft Acquisition & Consignment Services
Duncan Aviation has been selling aircraft since 1956 and was the first company to offer professional aircraft acquisition services. Our in-house aircraft sales team reduces the confusion and stress of used aircraft transactions by managing the process on your behalf. They are dedicated to representing your interests, and handle everything from advertising in prominent outlets, to negotiating purchase agreements, to coordinating prebuy services.
All purchase-related costs are identified up front. Our compensation is governed by a flat fee which is determined by the aircraft, and is not tied to the purchase price in any way.
When you purchase an aircraft through Duncan Aviation, you also have the comprehensive services of the entire company available. We take great pride in the quality of our work, and it comes with warranties that reflect our confidence in our services.
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