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What Does an Aircraft Painter Do?

Aircraft that incorporate stealth technology, such as the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor, are coated in radar absorbent paint.
American made combat aircraft that are exported to foreign countries are usually given camouflage that blends in with the terrain they are likely to fly over.
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  • Written By: Elizabeth West
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 06 August 2014
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Aircraft painters are responsible for maintaining the coatings on planes and other flying equipment, which protect the structure from outside elements. A thorough knowledge of equipment, safety procedures and color blending are required in this position. An aircraft painter should be in good shape to do the physical work required and will need to be familiar with handling hazardous chemicals. Most of the training is available on the job.

Someone working as an aircraft painter usually works from a manual that specifies what the plane is supposed to look like. Airlines have their own logos and distinctive colors, known as livery. Due to branding and trademarks, these must be as precisely rendered as possible. The logos also must be recognizable internationally so a plane can be instantly identified as legitimate for security reasons.

Painters will need some experience with art and color mixing so they can make sure the livery hues are correct. For applying pigment, the aircraft painter will use industrial coating applicators that are powerful and potentially dangerous. Other equipment may include hand tools for sanding and priming surfaces before coatings are applied.

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Airports and hangars may have security procedures such as wearing ID badges or checking in, so the aircraft painter may need to follow particular requirements of his or her workplace. Painters adhere to safety regulations for working on and around aircraft to avoid accidents. A dropped tool would be dangerous to those on the ground, and the aircraft painter may need power lifts to reach elevated surfaces. Harnesses and other safety devices are designed to keep them from falling. A painter needs to be in good physical condition for lifting, holding sprayers up, and climbing.

An aircraft painter will be working with many kinds of solvents for stripping old paint from the body of a plane. The job also requires familiarity with different types of coatings so the best one can be chosen for protection from altitude and weather conditions. These chemicals can cause poisoning, respiratory issues or burns, so painters should know how to use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) required for working with hazardous substances. Flash points and other dangers must be considered as well.

High school graduates interested in becoming an aircraft painter can seek entry-level employment in equipment refinishing, such as in an auto body shop. Techniques are typically taught on the job, but an associate degree in industrial technology from an accredited technical school is a plus. Aircraft painter salaries are typically higher than other transport painters because of the specialized experience it takes to paint an airplane.

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