AkzoNobel takes aircraft paint maintenance to new heights of efficiency

11 April 2023

Airlines and operators now have the opportunity to optimise the paint maintenance schedules for their entire fleets thanks to a digital management system developed by AkzoNobel’s Aerospace Coatings business.

Known as Aerofleet Coatings Management, the system uses data that’s gathered over several years to help ensure that aircraft are only repainted when needed, not according to a fixed time schedule alone.

“Planes are often repainted while the coating still has life left in it,” explains Patrick Bourguignon, Director of AkzoNobel’s Automotive and Specialty Coatings business. “Using our service will help to reduce costs, while increasing aircraft availability by anything up to a year.”

Currently, aircraft tend to be taken out of service for maintenance every six or seven years, without really knowing for certain if a repaint is needed. Aerofleet addresses this issue by capturing data from both manual and drone-operated inspections and creating a database of every aircraft in a fleet. The individual histories include details of the coatings used (such as single-stage or basecoat/clearcoat coatings), as well as flight path data – such as weather conditions – which can affect the longevity of the coating applied.

“By analysing this information and mapping it over several years, it becomes easier and more accurate to determine when an aircraft needs to be repainted, rather than simply using time or flight hours,” adds Tami Swearingin, Segment Director of AkzoNobel’s Aerospace and Film Coatings business. “Over time, the frequency with which aircraft need to be repainted will fall, which is significantly better for an airline’s bottom line. It also means less waste, so it will be better for the planet as well.”

Ideally suited for fleets in excess of 100 aircraft, the inspection service is provided by experts from AkzoNobel Aerospace Coatings, using a digital application. The app stores all the information collected, such as dry film thickness, color variation, gloss and general appearance. The data is then fed back to a database, which tracks the fleet’s performance over time.

Manual inspections can be further enhanced by automated inspections conducted by drones. The drones fly in a set grid over the plane’s surface – taking up to 1,000 high definition photos – and the built-in software analyses the images to flag any issues or wear of the coatings. This standardises the inspection and is less subjective. It’s also faster and more in-depth than a manual inspection – an automated drone can scan an entire narrowbody aircraft in less than an hour. Whether digitally recording data manually or via a drone, the objective is to only have an aircraft on the ground when it needs to be.

Aerofleet Coatings Management is being launched as part of a range of support and enhanced training services available through AkzoNobel Aerospace Business Solutions, a new entity bringing further structure to many of the services already provided by the business’ technical support teams.

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