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How to Become an Aircraft Painter

If you’re looking for a job to foster your creative abilities, becoming an aircraft painter is a wonderful position to begin your career. An aircraft painter works with management to design the body of an aircraft and prepares the plane for paints and finishes. To be successful in this position, you must have excellent hand-eye coordination and experience with using various painting tools. 

An aircraft painter is responsible for painting the airline’s brand name, logo, and colors on the plane’s body. This also includes cleaning, sanding, and scratching the aircraft’s surfaces to prepare them for a redesign. This position requires great workmanship and knowledge of aircraft parts.

Airlines are eager to hire professional painters that will make their planes stand out to the public as they fly. This career opportunity also offers growth for aircraft painters that are looking to take on more demanding work and projects.

Sample job description

Airlines take great pride in their aircraft’s painting and appearance as a way for the public to recognize their brand while in the air. As a result of company growth and new openings, [Your Company Name] is hiring aircraft painters. We are looking for someone detail-oriented who takes pride in their workmanship. Those we hire need to have two years of experience, and we expect your skills to continue improving as you gain more experience. Beginners will apply chemical paint stripping solution and prepare the aircraft to be painted by cleaning, masking, and sanding while those with more experience will apply the stripe, registration, and logo to the aircraft. If you are reliable, willing to work with minimal supervision, and ready to learn, you are a great candidate for this position.  

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Using tools and paint remover solutions, remove old paint from aircraft body and spare parts
  • Clean, sand and scratch aircraft surfaces to prepare them for painting
  • Apply epoxy, polish, resin or other materials to metal aircraft surfaces before applying the final color coat
  • Mix paint pigments to create desired colors
  • Mask and outline aircraft body to paint airline logo and livery, numerals, and brand name letters
  • Follow safety regulations and wear protective gear during spray painting operations

Education and experience

  • This position requires a high school diploma or equivalent

Required skills and qualifications

  • Knowledge of the properties of various paints, finishes, and paint removers
  • Teamwork and interpersonal communication skills
  • Strong hand-eye coordination and proficiency in using tools
  • Sufficient physical strength and dexterity to climb on aircrafts and manipulate painting equipment
  • Knowledge of the use, handling, and disposal of hazardous materials

Preferred qualifications

  • 3+ years working with aircraft
  • Experience working at high heights
  • Excellent steadiness in your hands
  • Strong self-starter attitude

Typical work environment

Aircraft painters will work both indoors and outdoors. Painting can be physically demanding and involves bending, reaching, lifting, and repetitive hand movements. You may be asked to work at extreme heights or in awkward positions. You will also be expected to use personal protective equipment, and handle and store chemicals safely. 

Typical hours

Aircraft painters usually work full-time, Monday through Friday, from 9 AM to 5 PM.

Available certifications

There are no degrees required to become an aircraft painter, but companies may be looking for a certificate indicating you have done vocational training or have work experience. Here are some options:

  • Aircraft Painter Certification Scheme (APCS) – This course was created to indicate to potential employers your competency to work safely on and around an aircraft. Eligibility for this certification requires completing a closed-book examination which may be taken after a short course, or by an experienced aircraft painter without the class. Course topics include paint application techniques, safety of the aircraft and painters, spray gun maintenance and use, aircraft design and mandatory markings, and paint removal techniques.  
  • SSPC Aerospace Coating Application Specialist Certification (ACAS) – This two-day assessment certifies that experienced aircraft painters have the experience and training required to prepare and paint aircrafts. This is a hands-on exam where applicants will need to be able to answer questions verbally and troubleshoot if necessary. There is no written exam. 

Career path

This position requires a high school diploma or its equivalent. Successful aircraft painters can advance into leadership roles such as lead painter, maintenance manager, or field supervisor once experience is gained.

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 51-9123

2020 Employment155,800
Projected Employment in 2030167,300
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 7% increase
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift11,600 increase

According to the American Coatings Association, increased demand for aircrafts, due to rising passenger air traffic, increases the need for aircraft paints, coatings, and adhesives. However, many companies are turning to automation technologies for aircraft assembly. This means more frequent use of robots to mix and apply paints, rather than using human painters.

Another trend in the aircraft painting field is the advent of primeless polyurethane topcoats. An application of primer is no longer needed, leading to reduced labor, lighter weight, and reduced vapor emissions. They also dry more quickly now, enabling aircraft painters to accomplish more tasks in the same amount of time. The military is developing and using these materials, but private companies are beginning to create products with similar properties for use in the private sector.