Re: Why are all airliners white?

Date:         29 Aug 97 08:10:42 
From:         "Stefano P. Pagiola" <Spagiola@worldbank.org>
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Onat Ahmet wrote:
> Is there a reason why airliners are dominantly painted in white,
> or is it simply that white paint is cheaper?!!

There are advantages to white paint, namely that it helps cool the
aircraft.  Airliners used to be mainly unpainted.  Then in the late
'40s/early '50s the cooling aspect was white paint was realized, and most
airlines started painting the tops of the their airliners white.  This was
known as "white crowns".  There is a weight penalty to painting, though, so
some airlines prefer to remain unpainted (eg American).  On yet another
hand, there is a corrosion protection benefit from painting, so that
Airbus, for example, for a long time would not give its corrosion warranty
to unpainted aircraft, which is why American's A300-600s were (at first)
painted.  Also, manufacturing an aircraft that is supposed to remain
unpainted is a little more complicated, since you need to match skin panels
carefully, otherwise the aircraft will look like a patchwork quilt.  And
finally, many parts on today's airliners are made of composites, which must
be painted.  Which is why even American Airlines' metal birds have white or
grey bits all over.  Put that all together, and there's lots of reasons why
you might or might not want to paint your airliners.

Having said that, today's mania for all-white fuselages among the world's
airlines (Finnair is the latest victim) is more a matter of fashion.  Look
at pictures of aircraft from the 1960s and 1970s.  The vast majority had a
cheatline about mid-fuselage, a colored tail with their logo, white top
fuselage, and metal bottom.  That was the fashion at the time.  Swissair,
SABENA, Lufthansa, Finnair, Alitalia, United, Pan Am, etc etc.  Today the
fashion (alas) is an all-white fuselage with a colored tail.  Oh sure,
there are exceptions now just as there were exceptions then.  But that's
the fashion.  We can only hope that it will change soon.

Stefano
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