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Patrick Gerussi at the Airbus paint shop in Toulouse, France.
Patrick Gerussi at the Airbus paint shop in Toulouse, France.

Aviation

The new SAS livery starts here

Imagine how much time and effort it takes the average person to paint a house. So just think of the challenge faced by the team at the Airbus paint center in Toulouse as they got to work on the new-look SAS fleet!

At the cavernous paint shop at Airbus, Toulouse, France, Patrick Gerussi is looking forward to his latest challenge – giving SAS planes their new look. The shop at the Airbus Design Office is part of a network of similar facilities at the planemaker’s final assembly sites, which also include Hamburg, Tianjin in China and Mobile in the US.

“In the case of a completely new design like this, the challenge is a really interesting one because it’s not an adaptation of an existing livery, but an entirely new project,” he says.

The challenge is a really interesting one, because it’s not an adaptation of an existing livery on another aircraft, but an entirely new project

Although it was long kept under wraps, the process of changing SAS’ livery actually began nearly a year ago. For obvious high confidentiality reasons, Gerussi was one of only a few people involved right from the beginning of the process. Then gradually, more people were involved as the planes themselves were assembled in Toulouse and prepared for their new outfit.

The process is complex. First, the planes have to be stripped of their existing coat of paint, even though it would be quicker and easier to simply add a new coat on top. In many ways, the preparation is similar to painting a house – surfaces have to be cleaned and windows need to be taped while stencils and more tape have to be carefully applied to avoid colors bleeding into each other.

Then comes the first coat.

“The vertical stabilizer, the winglets and the engine nacelles are all painted separately very early in the process. The fuselage and wings are painted after the aircraft has been put together on the final assembly line in Toulouse around one month before the final delivery,” says Gerussi.

The overhaul of the SAS fleet will be carried out in several stages, starting with the A350 XWB. The size of the task at hand is staggering when put in context – after all, the painted area on a single wide-body plane is approximately the size of a football field. Some 1,500 liters were used to paint the first SAS planes, according to Gerussi.

Perhaps surprisingly, much of the work is still done by hand. “The complete surface of the aircraft is painted manually using electrostatic spray guns,” says Gerussi. “All of the preparation work is also done by hand by the painters. The technical markings too,” he adds.

The good news is that once this mammoth task has been completed, the environmentally friendly solvent-based polyurethane paints means that the planes will retain their color and gloss for some 12 years before needing a new coat.

So how does it feel to see the “birth” of the newly designed SAS planes?

“I was proud to be involved in SAS’ new livery design.”

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