Chapter 25: Painting


"Paint your plane any color you like as long as it's white."


Step 7:  Painting


After this, the only step left to do is apply the colored, top coat paint.  In the automotive world, the pros normally apply a "primer/sealer" coat over the high build primer before applying the top coat paint.  It's purpose is to seal the top coat paint from what's underneath it, like remnants of rust, oil, water, older paint, etc.  (Think "car wreck.")   It also provides better adhesion for the top coat paint.


It's a religious argument in the canard community as to whether or not we need the primer/sealer coat before our top coat paint.  I'm no expert on the subject, but these are some of the guidelines I've heard:


(1) You generally don't need the primer/sealer coat if your high build primer and your top coat paint are from the same paint system from the same manufacturer.  If your high build primer is from a different manufacturer than your top coat paint, or if you're not sure the two are compatible, then it's generally safer to go ahead and apply the primer/sealer coat.

(2) If any micro is showing at all (like if you didn't listen and sanded through the primer and into the micro), then you need to apply the primer/sealer coat.

(3) If your top coat paint covers well and flows out well, then the primer/sealer coat is generally not needed.  If your top coat paint is very thin, then you can't go wrong applying the primer/sealer coat. 

(4) You definitely need the primer/sealer coat if you've used a polyester primer.


Above all else, it's best for you to check with your local painting professionals.


Flying in Primer versus Paint

The other, bigger religious argument is whether to do the test flights in primer or in final paint.  In general, if you expect to make some modifications based on what you learned during the test flights, it's probably best to fly the plane in primer.  Just ensure that the primer is cleaned of all oils, bugs, and other residue before applying the top coat paint.  You can buy surface preparation cleaners that do just that.  You must also re-sand the primer to wake up the molecules in order to provide a good chemical bond for the top coat paint.  Ken Miller suggests applying a sacrificial coat over the primer to protect it while flying.


Personally, I intend to paint the airplane inside and out before the first flight.  It's not that I think my plane will be perfect or won't require some type of modification.  But I do know that once the plane is flying, it's very hard to stop having fun and take the plane apart for painting!  It's also very difficult to remove all the instruments and wiring in order to paint the interior.  We flew my buddy's Long-EZ in primer for a year and a half before he decided to paint it.  By that time the white primer was dull and dirty.  The interior was never painted or upholstered.  We'd cover it up at air shows so no one would see the dark brown from the EZ-Poxy.


But never say never, right? :-)




My intention is to just buy a striping/graphics kit from any one of the hundreds (thousands?) of shops on the internet.  Do a google search on "auto graphics" and you'll see what I mean.  My favorite so far is this "Elite" graphic.  I'd apply the graphic onto the sides and wheelpants.  The rest of the plane will be painted in PPG Concepts "Bright White".  I may also apply a Jeannie image onto the winglets.  Why?  When a good friend of mine heard that I had been "rubbing" (sanding) on the airplane for 700 hours, the comment was, "You've been rubbing on that plane for so long, a genie is going to pop out of it."  So the name stuck.  And I'd rather have Barbara Eden on my plane than any grizzly he-man genie.




Some basic thoughts:


1.  Seats, arm rests, consoles, and battery cover will be covered in a light gray leather.


2.  The visible fuselage interior surfaces above the armrests will be finished out and painted in top coat white.  So will the storage areas in the strakes; front seat bulkhead, shoulder support, headrests, and keel brace; canopy; turtleback; rear seat, and spar areas. 


3.  The areas below the armrests will be zolatoned in a medium gray.  These areas include the floor pans, some of the back of the front seatback, and the nose area.


4.  The instrument panel will be covered in a light-gray formica overlay to complement the interior color scheme.



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