How to Choose the Right Aerospace Coatings for Helicopter Applications

Recently, Helicopter Maintenance magazine had a conversation regarding selection of the best helicopter external coatings with Julie Voisin, Global Aerospace Coatings products manager, Sherwin-Williams. Here are her thoughts.

“A regular painting regimen is a key requirement in any helicopter maintenance program. A new paint job not only enhances the aircraft’s aesthetics, but most importantly, it protects its surfaces from wear, tear and corrosion, especially in the most punishing environments (think excessive heat damage right behind exhaust cowlings).”

“Even the most durable, high-quality aerospace coating system will require thorough inspections and regular maintenance. Often a helicopter needs only minor touchups to its existing paint system; other times, an inspection will prove that an aircraft requires a complete repaint.  And that, in all likelihood, means most every single external airframe piece.”

“Quality coatings play a critical role in an aircraft’s operation, regardless of the helicopter’s mission: air ambulance and/or medical transport, safety and law enforcement services, media observation, aerial firefighting, tourism/recreation, search-and-rescue, offshore oil and gas transport, or military operation. With the right maintenance, products and applications, any helicopter will look and fly great for years to come.”

Two Types of Topcoat Systems are Recommended

“A highly durable and often helicopter-specified aerospace coating is the multi-component polyester urethane topcoat system. Such is Jet Glo Express from Sherwin-Williams. It offers excellent coverage and protection, and as a result, can be found on all types of helicopters. Notable features include excellent flow and leveling, good buffing characteristics and outstanding gloss and DOI (distinctness of image).”

“Another option is the latest basecoat-clearcoat technology, like Sherwin-Williams SKYscapes. These are state-of-the-art, modified polyester topcoats applied through a revolutionary process.  They allow paint facilities to apply many colors in a shift and quickly move the helicopter — or any aircraft — through the painting cycle. The end result is great color and a highly durable finish, and both the shop and helicopter’s owner save time and money. They are also ideal for special effect finishes such as micas and metallic.”

Using Color Tools and Custom Color Matching

“Color selection should be simple. Most aerospace coatings manufacturers provide color cards and fan decks for choices of brilliantly designed exterior and interior color systems. Many offerings include traditional aerospace colors as well as new bright, bold hues (the latter is now available in the SKYscapes collection, thanks to its specially formulated toners).”

“Because helicopter owners are very particular about their craft’s design and color scheme, Sherwin-Williams and other manufacturers offer custom color matching to handle complicated color schemes and extensive deliveries.  Experienced color technicians are available in their color laboratories to meet any color challenge.”  

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Julie Voisin is the global product manager, Aerospace Coatings, for the Sherwin-Williams Company. She has more than 15 years’ experience with one of the world’s leading companies in the manufacture, distribution and sale of aerospace coating systems and products for general aviation, commercial airlines and military aircraft.