Aircraft painting is done in a clean environment with ventilation, usually closed off from the surrounding due to the chemical fumes that will be released. Large aircraft are painted in specially designed hangars; smaller aircraft in paint shops that resemble an automotive “spray booth.” In either case, painters require protective equipment to prevent exposure to noxious fames from veriety of chemical that are required.
The first step in painting an aircraft an remover the existing finish down to bare metal. New techniques such as dry-ice blasting are making inroads, but chemical strippers are the usual choice. Protective equipment — gloves, safety glasses and a respirator –is especially important for this step. Any chemical that can eat through layers of old paint will do the same to human skin. Another consideration is disposal. Several gallons of stripper will be used for even a small aircraft; in many locates it will be considered hazardous waste.
A thorough inspection of the aircraft should be performed by a licensed mechanic after the old finish is removed. Cracks, loose rivets and other damage that hid under old paint may be visible now. Repair any defects before beginning the application of a new finish.
Apply new finish
The new finish is a two-step process. Primer is applied first, followed by the topcoat. The standard primer for aircraft applications is zinc- chromate. Typical application is by spray gun. An air compressor capable of providing a constant supply of air at the correct pressure is necessary, and of course, the spray gun. Multiple coats are usually applied; account for this when purchasing primer and paint because matching colors can be a challenge if more paint is purchased after the job is begun. Any striping or other detail will be applied after the base color has completely dried. Use quality masking material to protect the finish. An aircraft has ports installed in the skin to allow outside air to enter the instrument system. There provide ambient air as a reference air pressure for the instruments. A painter must be very careful not to cover or contaminate these, or important instruments may be rendered inoperative.