Why are Most Aircraft Painted White?

You may have spent some time at an airport – admiring the view on the tarmac. For sure you have noticed, that most aircraft are painted white – with the logo and branding as the expection. Why is that so?

History

In the early years, most aircraft were not painted at all. They were left in the original metallic look. With time, this has changed, as the metal is more likely to get dirty.

Douglas DC-3 in the metallic look (source: https://aerocorner.com/blog/iconic-1930s-airplanes/)

Several reasons lead to the white livery.

There is not the only reason why the livery is often white. In fact, there are several different ones coming from different aspects. Let’s find out the most common ones:

Longer life

Aircraft are most of the time out in the wild (unless they are in a hangar for maintenance reasons). They are much affected by sunlight. The white color prevents the cabin from heating up too much, and the color does not lose its touch (black turn grey after some time etc.) with all the weather influence (such as rain, ice, wind, and sun).

Cost

Changing the livery of an aircraft is also cost. It can cost up to 300,000 USD and take up to two weeks when the aircraft does not generate revenue. As white is the most common color, it is cheaper to purchase. An A380 needs up to 3’600 liters of paint, which makes it clear that the price matters.

Bird strike

A darker aircraft is not easy spottable for birds. With a white livery, birds are more likely to recognize and avoid the aircraft. Bird strike is both – a safety and a financial risk factor.

Time pressure

Most airlines do not own their aircraft, but lease them. To change livery would cost time (see above) – and time is money. It is neither in the interest of the airline nor the leasing company to spend time for this.

Spot the damage

After every landing, a visual inspection of the aircraft takes place. White color does not hide scratches and other damages or darker colors. As these damages might bring a safety risk – it is crucial to spot them.

However, there are some nice exceptions – let’s enjoy them!

Despite these facts, some airlines have nicer liveries. Some only temporarily, and some are always like that. Let’s enjoy the show.

Sources:

Cover picture: https://jooinn.com/img/get

https://www.20min.ch/story/darum-sind-fast-alle-flugzeuge-weiss-950313384229

https://www.travelandleisure.com/airlines-airports/airplane-paint-jobs


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