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Why Are Aircraft White? 8 Reasons Why

October 14, 2017

 

While you may think most private jet owners want to be flashy and stand out from the crowd, you can’t help to notice one small thing their aircraft all have in common. The color.

 

You may realize that most aircraft are white – “Matterhorn White” to be exact.

And while private jets can be fully customized inside and out to include anything the owner’s heart desires, you may wonder, why do they all tend to be white?

In truth, when aircraft come off the manufacturer’s assembly line, they are usually green (due to their undercoat of zinc phosphate primer), so they’re not even white by default. So why are so many aircraft white? Here are some reasons why.

 

1) White has thermal advantage

White is a terrific reflector of sunlight, and reflects almost all the light that falls on it, unlike other colours, which absorb some of the rays.

This means the cabin stays cooler – which can be a particular advantage on the runway in hot climates. And while it’s not widely the case, some airframes require the use of white paint on upper surfaces, to maintain their airframe temperature limits.

A white aircraft makes the perfect blank canvas for branding. Image: Cessna.

 

2) It’s a blank canvas

There’s no better base colour to show off a company logo. Am expanse of white fuselage makes a great blank canvas for the owners or manufacturer’s marketing efforts.

But a minority of aircraft manufacturers, airlines or owners do look at the whole aircraft as a marketing opportunity.

 

3) It increases resale & charter value

White aircraft have a better resale value than coloured ones. The new owner can easily have small sections repainted in their livery, rather than having to invest much more money in an all-over new paint job.

And the same goes for rental or charter. A charter aircraft painted in a neutral and discreet way will have more demand than a distinctive, coloured one.

Many private jet owners make their aircraft available for private charter when they’re not using it, and want to make it attractive to charter customers, as well as to their own taste. Charter is a way of offsetting some of the significant costs of owning your own aircraft. (Even then, buying your own aircraft is not financially viable for most private jet users. See Should I buy, share or charter?).

 

4) It doesn’t fade…

White paint ages better than most other colours. Being exposed to sunlight at high altitudes can take its toll on deeper colours, but white doesn’t fade.

So a white aircraft may need to be repainted every four years, rather than every two. And when you’re paying between $100,000 and $350,000 for a repaint, that’s a big consideration.

 

5) …but it does show cracks & leaks

While fading isn’t a safety consideration, other deterioration such as cracking or oil leaks certainly is. And on a white surface these have nowhere to hide. That’s a big advantage to maintenance and safety.

And while white may be harder to keep clean, dirt adds drag. So keeping the aircraft clean is also more fuel-efficient.

Military aircraft, such as Tornado jets, are usually painted in greens or greys, so they are less visible in the sky.

 

6) It shows up in the sky

A white aircraft is more easily spotted at night and in the sky. That’s why military planes – which conversely don’t want to be spotted in the sky – are rarely white and usually come in camouflage colours of grey, green or blue.

 

7) White aircraft paint is cheaper 

Due to its popularity, white aircraft paint is more widely available and less expensive than other colours.

 

8) It has traditional appeal

People have deep (and often subconscious) feelings about colour. And research has shown that most passengers feel more comfortable and secure flying in a traditional white aircraft.

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