Airlines use colors to develop a strong visual identity of their planes and brand in general. Aircraft painters play an important role in helping airlines achieve this goal. Their task is to paint an aircraft’s exterior according to the manufacturer or airline’s specifications. If you possess strong artistic skills, and you are passionate about planes, this is a career you could pursue.
What Do Aircraft Painters Do?
Their duties include:
- Studying aircraft or airline liveries – these are standard or custom-paint schemes applied to a plane’s fuselage, nose, tails, engines, and wings.
- Applying primers and other suitable acids or chemicals to prepare the plane’s exterior surface for painting.
- Painting the airline’s name, logo and other company symbols on various parts of the plane’s exterior.
- Maintaining brushes, paint guns and other painting tools and equipment.
- Adhering to occupational safety practices to avoid workplace injuries.
Aircraft painters typically work from 9am to 5pm, Monday through Friday. They spend their day in climate-controlled factories or airline workshops where they paint the planes.
The work environment can be noisy and smelly, so they wear ear and nose muffs, gloves and other pieces of protective clothing. The job is also physically demanding and energy-draining, so your muscles must be well-prepared for physical activities.
Aircraft painters earn as follows:
Lowest earning aircraft painters
$28,362 – $33,120
Median earning aircraft painters
$33,120 - $41,800
Highest earning aircraft painters
$41,800 - $44,945
It takes more than just the ability to paint to become an aircraft painter. You must, for instance, have a sound understanding of the characteristics of materials used to make a plane’s exterior. As such, you should pursue a certificate or associate degree program in aircraft or aerospace painting. Although these courses are rare, you can pursue them in any of these institutions:
- Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Florida
- The Finishing Academy, Wyoming
- Florida State College at Jacksonville, Florida
Regardless of the program you choose to pursue, you should learn about the various facets of aircraft painting, including damage inspection, aircraft coating systems, and finishing techniques.
To be a good aircraft painter, you need:
- An aptitude for practical work
- A head for heights
- Physical stamina
- Strong technical skills
- Good eye-hand coordination
- An interest in staying abreast of developments in the paint technology industry
- The ability to read and understand technical drawings
- Good teamwork and communication skills
- Awareness of occupational health and safety procedures
- Normal color visions
- The ability to pay close attention to details
- Ability to follow instructions closely.
After getting hired, it is important to engage in continuing education activities. You can do this by attending paint technology workshops, which are typically organized by colleges that offer painting courses, as well as industry associations such as:
These organizations also offer membership opportunities, which you could grab to access other professional development resources.
Since there aren’t advanced credentials in aircraft painting, many ambitious painters often pursue bachelor’s degrees in closely related areas like aviation maintenance technology.
The employers of aircraft painters include:
- Aircraft manufacturers
- Companies that provide painting services
- Companies that manufacture or supply aircraft paints
With vast painting experience, you can be hired as the lead aircraft painter – a position that involves training and supervising new workers. It is also possible to move into self-employment by establishing a company that provides painting services to airlines and private plane owners. A bachelor’s degree in aviation maintenance enables you to become an aircraft maintenance technician.
Finally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 10 percent job growth for painters of transportation equipment from 2012 through to 2022. This growth rate is a point shy of the 11 percent average for all jobs.
So, if you want to beauty these manmade birds, an aircraft painting job won’t be so hard to come by!