Painting to new heights
January 22, 2021
22 January, 2021
The painting of a helicopter and painting a wall in your house are far from the same thing.
The painting of a helicopter and painting a wall in your house are far from the same thing. While painting your house may require a few paint rollers and a couple cans of paint, painting an aircraft involves a number of products and equipment, adherence to government standards and highly skilled paint professionals to protect the integrity of the machine. The colour and design of an aircraft livery is much more than cosmetic. They have important aspects to the maintenance, operational efficiency and safety of an aircraft.
In the case of Ornge’s fleet of AW139 helicopters, paint is utilised by the manufacturer to protect the associated surfaces and maintain their structural integrity from various forms of corrosion. Through the course of wear and tear, exposure to weather elements and oxidation, paint loss naturally occurs and exposes these areas.
Paint does not just protect surfaces and help maintain their structural integrity. There is also an aerodynamic component that can be impacted. The erosion of the painted surfaces results in parasitic drag and the reduction of aircraft performance, and can even lead to slower flight times. With an air ambulance, you naturally want to ensure nothing slows you down.
As a form of corrosion control, Ornge uses “fresh” paint. This highlights the poor condition of the overall finish to the aircraft as the existing paint is heavily discoloured from UV light and oxidation. Further deterioration has also transpired over the last ten years of heavy use due to the engine exhaust adhering to the poor paint surface, evident as “sooting” visible along the helicopter tail. This adds additional risk to the maintenance of the aircraft as it has the ability to mask signs of cracking and loose fasteners. This is exacerbated at night or during poor lighting, adding a further challenge for flight crews and maintenance engineers during their walk around and inspections.
While Ornge uses fresh paint as required, painting the entirety of an airframe is not something we can do ourselves. What does this mean? You guessed it. Our AW139 helicopters are going to be repainted throughout 2021.
Will they maintain a familiar look, or is the Ornge air ambulance fleet due for a makeover? Stay tuned in the coming weeks to find out!