Re: Why are all airliners white?

Date:         05 Sep 97 17:27:24 
From:         k_ish <>
Organization: Netcom
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Karl Swartz wrote:

> <snip>

> The reason why most airliners are predominantly white is mostly
> because darker colors absorb more heat, meaning more work must be
> done by the air conditioning systems while sitting on the ground
> on a hot, sunny day.  (At cruise altitudes, the outside air is
> plenty cold.)

True.  IIRC, the Concorde is white instead of the BA gray due to solar
heat loading as well as the high skin temperatures generated by
aerodynamic friction.  I have a chart of the surface temperatures
various colors generate in the sun (important when painting
composites).  Red and gray are almost as bad as black- NW must like to
do lots of maintenance on their ECS!

> As a side benefit, the mostly white schemes are easier to see, so
> there is a safety factor, though the existence of many non-white
> schemes suggests this is not a significant consideration.

Yes, looking down at the aircraft against dark colored terrain or
water.  White is a low visibility color against snow or against a bright
sky.  The USAF ran experiments with arrays of bright lights mounted on
aircraft.  The distance where a person could first see the test plane
went from approx. 8 miles to 3 miles, adding greatly to its "stealth".
The experiment was so successful, several Vietnam-era fighters were
equipped with this "camoflauge" lighting.  It is speculated that the
latest Stealth aircraft have this type of lighting.

BTW, one of the best camoflauge colors for an aircraft is salmon
pink...but try to get any self-respecting pilot to fly a pink
airplane!.  One of the most visible colors is light blue- look at a
pictures NASA test aircraft; I was told during a tour of NASA Dryden
Research Center this color was chosen to maximize visibility (they have
a lot of white in the color scheme as well).

Surprising, isn't it!?

Ken Ishiguro