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Maintenance

Getting a new look

MRO Management finds out about the latest developments in paints and coatings – and that adoption can be a slow process
 

Although much has been made of the introduction of basecoat/clearcoat and all its advantages, it seems that its widespread acceptance has been taking some time. There are two main reasons for this.

 

The first is the very large number of aircraft in service that have been painted using the conventional single-stage polyurethane method, and there are a lot of paint shops that are already set up to use this system. In an innately conservative industry, despite the widely advertised benefits of the new technology, in particular the reduced turnaround times in the paint shop and some weight saving, it is no surprise that many users are sticking with what they know.

 

The other factor is that Boeing is at a relatively early stage of adopting basecoat/clearcoat (surprisingly the 787 still uses single-stage polyurethane). Boeing says it is in an evaluation phase at the moment, with a possible decision being made in mid-2013. Given current production rates, that means a lot of new aircraft will be delivered with the current paint system. They are unlikely to be repainted much before five years in service – at the first heavy check.

 

It also seems that airlines in Europe, the Middle East and Asia have been the most publicised early adopters of basecoat/clearcoat, perhaps because of the importance that is put on their liveries in their marketing campaigns. These airlines are also keen to use special colour schemes – repaints are often outside of standard maintenance schedules and driven by new campaigns.

 

Mankiewicz

Gunnar Hansen, R&D Manager – Head of Aviation, Exterior & Structure Coatings, says Mankiewicz pioneered the development of basecoat/clearcoat in the aviation industry in 2006, in response to demand  from airlines and airframe manufacturer, Airbus. He says that increased durability was required as the time intervals between heavy maintenance cycles were increasing. At the same time, colour schemes were becoming more complex, which resulted in a demand for time savings in the paint shops. It was introduced in 2009, with early adopters including KLM, whose trial aircraft still retain a high gloss finish, and Qantas, which was concerned about fading through UV exposure, but has been satisfied with the results. It has received approval from major airframe OEMs and also the AMS3095 approval, which is valid for the refurbishment of commercial aircraft by third-party MROs.

 

The company has very close links with Airbus, and its research and development activities have followed technological progress as new aircraft programmes evolve. The most obvious example is the greater use of composite materials in aircraft construction these days, which means there is less need for corrosion protection from the use of primers. However, a new issue has appeared. Surprisingly, the surface finish of composite components is actually not as smooth as metal alternatives. Finding imperfections can be difficult unless a special primer is used and Mankiewicz has now developed the first such product to be approved by Airbus for use on the A350. This allows close inspection and the use of fillers and sanding to remove imperfections.

 

Hansen explains that the company is committed to research and development, which is why it has been in the vanguard of so many new products. Earlier, Mankiewicz introduced selectively strippable systems. Qantas used the system on their A330s and, says Hansen, it performed well when two aircraft were prepared by Lufthansa Technik Philippines for a livery change, cutting the preparation time before repainting started.


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