Aircraft aren’t just painted to make them pretty; they’re painted to protect the structure from failure. Every time you fly your aircraft, it’s exposed to environmental elements that will damage the paint over time.
Sun exposure fades paint, wind and sand scratch it, and heat and cold alternately cause the paint to expand and contract – which causes cracking and pitting. Mix in humidity, sea water, air pollution, and ice, and over time, corrosion may start to form, even if only at a microscopic level.
On a metal surface, corrosion needs only oxygen and moisture to get started. Although both elements are necessary for life on earth, they can be detrimental to your aircraft.
Your aircraft also is continually subjected to the normal stresses of flight, including severe temperature and pressure changes. Every component of an aircraft is affected, and eventually, when coupled with corrosion, the structural integrity of the aircraft can be compromised.
What can you do to protect your aircraft?
Inspect your aircraft regularly. As the aircraft ages, the joints become worn, skins stretch, and structural components begin to weaken. Evidence of these changes is not always immediately visible, so a solid maintenance program is a must.
Corrosion can form in different places on or inside the aircraft. Regardless of the type or location of the corrosion, it’s important to have a prevention plan in place. While there is no guarantee that painting your aircraft on a regular basis will prevent all corrosion repairs in the future, if you do not do so, you will be faced with corrosion at some point in the life of your aircraft.
Many owners paint an aircraft thinking how beautiful the stripes and shiny base colors will look. But paying attention to the condition of the paint can pay far larger long-term dividends on the value and safety of the aircraft.
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