Why go for a colour that’s the most difficult to maintain, right? Here’s why!
It’s the most ubiquitous colour in the airline industry. Almost every airplane in the world is painted white, the most important differentiating factor being the tail that often carries the airline’s distinguishing colours. So what makes white the colour of choice for modern-day passenger planes? And when did while become the preferred colour for aircraft? As it turns out a Quote user, Lachie Smith had this answer:
Smith writes that there was a point when it was almost impossible to spot a white plane. Most airlines would opt for no colour at all leaving the bare metal open to the elements. You’ll likely have seen these aircraft in several of the old movies. Now, even though it made the aircraft look tad bit shabby, there was a rationale for keeping it unpainted. Smith points out that it was because it made it easier to spot a crack on the aircraft’s system than when it was covered in paint.
But that also made it difficult to maintain the aircraft. Every small speck of dust, even a tiny scratch would show up making the aircraft look like it’s not been taken care of. Which is why several airlines ditched the ‘chrome’ look to white paint. This helped them save costs on polishing and cleaning that chrome required. All this was at the cost of a little extra paint.
So why white and no other colour? For one, white fades the least, which means you don’t have to repaint your aircraft as often as if it was a darker colour. This saves airlines a lot of money. But there’s another reason too. Smith writes, “White paint actually weighs less than black paint, and with the average coat of paint for a Boeing 747 weighing at 250 kilos (550 pounds), that's a whole lot of extra weight that the airlines need to be smart about. So without the option to have no paint, airlines began to realise that the darker the paint, the more it weighs. Combined with all that weigh saving, white paint actually reflects the sun's rays and can improve the lifetime of the aircraft."
Of course, this doesn’t mean everyone paints their aircraft white. KLM aircrafts have a light blue hue on their top half. Similarly, Southwest aircraft are painted blue, red and gold and the American low-cost airlines Spirit went from white and blue to a vibrant yellow over the years. There’s Wizz Air from Hungary that flies aircraft with a curious mix of purple and pink, Air Greenland that’s painted its aircraft red in order to blend in with the country’s landscape and NokAir whose aircraft are painted, yellow, orange and white with the tip of the aircraft designed to look like the beak of a bird!