Before a drop of paint is applied to the aircraft’s surface, a great deal of care is taken up with meticulous preparation to ensure a quality finish. In fact, even before surfaces are cleaned and areas masked, the aircraft has to be very precisely positioned in the hangar, all to within 100mm of a number of specific points.
This is to ensure the automated spray platforms that the painters work from can move around the aircraft in the correct pre-programmed manner.
A river runs through it
The paint shop has been designed with the environment and safety in mind. When spraying takes place, 1000s of litres of water gush through a pipe system underneath the floor, while air is fed in from the ceiling. This system helps decontaminate the air in just two minutes. The water is filtered then stored in tanks and recycled during each spraying phase.
Every angle covered
Each UK aircraft has three coats of paint applied to it. The first is a Primer base coat which has a dark black colour. The second is an Intermediate coat, which acts as a protective coat for the primer during any remedial work when the aircraft is in service. The third is the Final coat. Painting is carried out by teams, four of whom work on hydraulic platforms, or man movers, that dance around the aircraft on a precise pre-set route, which has 37 points.
From these the painters can safely operate a pressure-controlled spray and reach right across the aircraft’s wingspan with ease.
The polyurethane paint contains special properties to protect the aircraft from any environmental exposure. In total, around 35 litres of paint are used in the Top coat. At each stage the Primer, Intermediate and Top coat has to be applied with great skill as each layer has to be less than the thickness of a human hair. The Final coat is known by its trade name simply as 626 Grey.
Typhoon Final Assembly Facility at Warton, Lancashire, England
The heat is on
The final coat of paint is left to dry for around six to eight hours. To ensure an even finish the spray shop is usually kept at 23 degrees Centigrade but the booths can be heated up to speed the drying process. Once dry, the surfaces are cleaned and the quality of finish is checked.
The leading edges on the wings, the intakes and the foreplanes are given a number of coats of a special erosion-resistant coating, which protects them from the elements at high speed.
These are the part of the aircraft which take the most impact of high speed flight.
Making a Mark
Once the painting is complete, the graphics are applied. There are around 350 different markings on each Typhoon and they’re all produced in-house. Each one is hand painted and applied precisely. Preparing the aircraft at this stage and painting the markings takes about a day.