While you might think private jet owners want to stand out from the crowd, you can’t fail to notice that most aircraft are white.
Matterhorn White to be precise. That’s the specific white paint colour used for most private jets these days. We commented on its popularity in this recent news article in Moneyish.
So why are aircraft white?
They may have a coloured stripe or pattern here or there. But while it’s perfectly possible to paint an aircraft pink, green, pink, or gold all over, a white base colour is very much de rigeur for private aircraft – as it is for most airliners.
When aircraft come off the manufacturer’s assembly line, they are usually green – this is their undercoat of zinc phosphate primer. That’s why you see green aircraft during the stages of their flight test program.
And while there’s no technical reason why they can’t stay that way, usually they are finished in white before being delivered to customers.
Here are some of the reasons why.
1) White has thermal advantage
White is a terrific reflector of sunlight, and reflects almost all the light that falls on it, unlike other colours, which absorb some of the rays.
This means the cabin stays cooler – which can be a particular advantage on the runway in hot climates. And while it’s not widely the case, some airframes require the use of white paint on upper surfaces, to maintain their airframe temperature limits.
2) It’s a blank canvas
There’s no better base colour to show off a company logo. Am expanse of white fuselage makes a great blank canvas for the owners or manufacturer’s marketing efforts.
But a minority of aircraft manufacturers, airlines or owners do look at the whole aircraft as a marketing opportunity.
Honda uses bold sections of colour to illustrate Hondajet‘s point of difference to other small jets (but hasn’t given up on white altogether). And a colourful branded aircraft makes the ultimate flying poster site for many movie launches, music tours and corporate roadshows.
3) It increases resale & charter value
White aircraft have a better resale value than coloured ones. The new owner can easily have small sections repainted in their livery, rather than having to invest much more money in an all-over new paint job.
And the same goes for rental or charter. A charter aircraft painted in a neutral and discreet way will have more demand than a distinctive, coloured one.
Many private jet owners make their aircraft available for private charter when they’re not using it, and want to make it attractive to charter customers, as well as to their own taste. Charter is a way of offsetting some of the significant costs of owning your own aircraft.
4) It doesn’t fade…
White paint ages better than most other colours. Being exposed to sunlight at high altitudes can take its toll on deeper colours, but white doesn’t fade.
So a white aircraft may need to be repainted every four years, rather than every two. And when you’re paying between $100,000 and $350,000 for a repaint, that’s a big consideration.
5) …but it does show cracks & leaks
While fading isn’t a safety consideration, other deterioration such as cracking or oil leaks certainly is. And on a white surface these have nowhere to hide. That’s a big advantage to maintenance and safety.
And while white may be harder to keep clean, dirt adds drag. So keeping the aircraft clean is also more fuel-efficient.
6) It shows up in the sky
A white aircraft is more easily spotted at night and in the sky. That’s why military planes – which conversely don’t want to be spotted in the sky – are rarely white and usually come in camouflage colours of grey, green or blue.
7) White aircraft paint is cheaper
Due to its popularity, white aircraft paint is more widely available and less expensive than other colours.
8) It has traditional appeal
People have deep (and often subconscious) feelings about colour. And research has shown that most passengers feel more comfortable and secure flying in a traditional white aircraft.