Plane & Pilot
Monday, September 1, 2008

Project 182, Part III

Exterior Makeover!

project 182Renovation on N9771H is complete! In “Project 182, Part I” [April 2008], we covered the modernization of the aircraft’s avionics panel. We took care of the interior in “Project 182, Part II: Redressing A Skylane” [June 2008], and in this final edition, we address the exterior.
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As you might imagine, we deal with plenty of spectacular paint jobs in our quest for editorial perfection, so we were well aware that the best design may be the simplest or, in fact, none at all. All-metal airplanes such as Luscombes, Bonanzas, Cessna 140s/170s and many warbirds can look spectacular in polished aluminum trim with an occasional stripe.

If you do choose to paint (as most pilots do), Smith adheres to the KISS principle (“keep it simple, stupid”). Some airplanes may actually benefit from a simple, single-color paint scheme, or a single color and some stripes. White is the most common single color, but we’ve all seen airplanes that looked striking in all-red, all-yellow or all-silver paint jobs.

Should you opt for a multicolored scheme with stripes or swooping curves, Smith has some advice. “The most common repaints are adaptations of current paint schemes that simply upgrade an older airplane to look like a newer model,” says Smith. “If you’re planning to adopt a nonstandard scheme, it’s important to remember your goal in a paint job, because that can make a big difference in which colors or scheme you choose. Remember that the folks who design paint jobs for most manufacturers are professionals with an eye toward complementing the flow of the fuselage and wing.

“Painting with a nontraditional design or colors simply because you want to express your individuality is fine as long as you accept that sometime down the road, when you decide to sell, others may not share your taste. In other words, a highly individualized paint scheme may cost you money when its time to resell.” Conversely, a sharp, conventional paint scheme can increase the value of your airplane by several thousand dollars.

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Before (left) and after (right) images of the C-182’s landing-gear fairings.

Smith has dealt with a wide variety of designs, and part of his service is to advise how a given scheme will look on a particular model. “Sometimes, it’s not practical to adapt a paint design from one manufacturer to another,” says Smith. “If you see a great design on a Learjet, don’t automatically assume it will adapt straight across to your V-tail Bonanza. Similarly, a high-wing scheme may not work on a low-wing airplane, and vice versa. You’re generally better off sticking with designs that complement the configuration of the airplane.”

One question that Smith frequently fields regards the use of small N-numbers that don’t convolute the paint scheme. “If you don’t plan to take your airplane outside the United States, and it’s more than 30 years old, you can have it repainted with the small, three-inch registration. Then, if you subsequently decide to travel internationally, say to Canada or Mexico,” Smith explains, “you can stick on temporary, vinyl 12-inch numbers and letters to comply with international requirements.”

Smith charges $400 for his services on singles and $500 on twins; he’ll work with you through as many changes as you need. “I’ll submit as many as two-dozen possible concepts to a client to give some ideas of what works,” says Smith. “We’ll lay out the scheme and colors so the client can preview them on the computer, then we’ll work with the paint shop to help configure the actual paint application.”

Wings Aviation Design clients include everything from small singles to large corporate jets. “Business airplanes tend to be sold and repainted more often than privately owned singles,” Smith comments, “and as a result, we’ve worked on some corporate airplanes several times.”

The second ingredient in most paint jobs is the treatment of fiberglass parts. If you don’t have fiberglass pieces on your airplane, you won’t need to worry, but these days, most airplanes feature a number of composite parts.


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