Have you ever noticed that airplanes are always painted white with the exception of a logo or some livery?
There’s actually a reason behind this very specific color that makes a huge difference for the plane, helping with temperature control, cost efficiency, visibility and preventing corrosion. Let’s take a look at each one more closely to get a good sense of how color impacts an aircraft.
The most important aspect of painting an airplane white is to reflect sunlight and reduce the amount of heat and radiation that can cause damage to the plane and its interior.
Because sections of airplanes are made with fiberglass and carbon fiber, elements can be severely destructed by the sun including the nose of the plane (where the aircraft radar is located) and control areas, the white or light grey paint will help keep them cool.
The cost of adding more color to an airplane is not cheap, plus paint adds weight, about 600 to 1,200 pounds of it. As a result, a plane with lots of color details would need to burn more fuel to travel the same distance that a plane that’s painted white would have to.
Because an airplane is so large—imagine an A380—the cost to repaint it can vary between $50,000 to $200,000. And it doesn’t end there. As some of you may know, aircraft are sold off from one company to another, and a carrier is less inclined to purchase an airplane that’s been painted with multiple colors (especially a lot of them).
Easy to See
According to research, birds are more likely to see a white plane than they are a plane that’s been drastically painted with other colors. Interestingly enough, there are no laws on what colors an airplane needs to be—or what colors they cannot be—painted.
Up until World War II, planes were not painted any color, rather were left the same metal color they were built with. As a result, the aircraft began to corrode after a certain time. In order to keep them fresh, companies had to polish them on a regular basis, which was time-consuming and costly. Now, airplanes are painted white to preserve its exterior for many years, which is still cheaper than frequent polishing that can cost an upwards of $82,000 more than painting.