Painting an aircraft is a meticulous and labor-intensive job. However, it is a vital function that needs to be performed flawlessly and requires the proper skills, knowledge, and training to avoid undesirable consequences.
On an aircraft, paint affects more than just its appearance. Painting helps protect the aircraft against salty environments, contamination, and fuel spills that can damage the aircraft’s metal structure. The paint protects the exposed surfaces and metal components from deterioration by corrosion. Paint also makes the aircraft surface more resistant to the accumulation of dirt and oil and makes it easier to maintain.
Paint has a significant impact on the aircraft’s weight and aerodynamics. The paint and finish coatings must be applied perfectly to ensure that the aircraft functions properly in flight and that aircraft safety is not impacted.
In time, the paint can begin to degrade and form cracks or chip away causing the surface to become exposed to moisture and have a higher risk for corrosion. Aircraft are often repainted every 7-10 years as a part of a regular maintenance schedule to ensure that the aircraft remains protected from the elements.
Due to the importance of the painting process, and the safe use of the paint and chemicals required, aircraft painting operations must abide by strict regulations enforced by the following regulatory agencies regarding the operation, safety, and environmental concerns of the processes involved.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), aircraft paint must be applied according to the process outlined in the aircraft’s maintenance manual, and cannot differ, such as using the paint manufacturer’s process, without needing to be approved by the FAA.
Painting an aircraft is considered a ‘major alteration’ type maintenance event and must be recorded in the aircraft logbook as any other event per Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) 14 CFR Part 43. Also, only FAA-certified mechanics are allowed to perform the inspection of the painted aircraft.
After painting, the FAA also governs the application of the registration markings on the aircraft exterior per FAR Part 45.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is responsible for regulations that encompass employee and workplace safety. The OSHA Standards for Spray Operations includes measures to ensure that the paint operators are kept safe, such as providing the proper protective equipment, like respiratory and eye protection, as well as sufficient lighting and ventilation throughout the painting environment.
The National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) implemented by the EPA requires compliance in the monitoring and control of emissions and hazardous air pollutants present in many aircraft painting processes. The focus is on the proper treatment and filtering of the environment when dealing with dangerous airborne chemicals and pollutants, especially during the sanding or spraying processes.
As a whole, aviation manufacturers and the rest of the aviation industry are moving toward safer and environmentally-friendly products that are less dangerous to human health and the environment and can actually perform better and cost less than some of the hazardous chemicals used in previous painting processes.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) provides regulations that cover the use of flammable and combustible materials in spray painting applications. Serious fire hazards can be present if certain chemicals or materials are handled in an unsafe manner. The NFPA regulations listed in NFPA 33 govern the safe disposal of cleaning rags, proper sealing and storage of containers with flammable materials, and general workplace cleanliness to reduce and contain the risk of fires.
Many state or local governments or agencies have specialized regulations, in addition to the federal regulations, that also need to be followed particularly in the disposal of any hazardous chemicals used in the painting process. The painting organization needs to be properly informed of the regulations that apply to them in the specific location of their operations.
RVSM isn’t all that needs inspected and.
Here’s all the other equipment that needs calibrated and tested.