We recently walked the ramp at a mid-sized muni airport and drew this conclusion about airplane paint jobs: Most are workmanlike if ordinary, a small number are abysmally ugly and an even smaller number are exceptionally good looking. The reason is that even good paint shops concentrate on competent application at the expense of not straying far from conservative, factory based color schemes.
Not that this is necessarily a bad thing. A couple of years ago, we saw a banana-yellow Bonanza with black and silver trim that made us want to hunt down the owner and ask him: what in the name of Gods creation were you thinking? Clearly, some owners need help with planning paint jobs.
One company, Aircraft Scheme Designers, has made a name for itself doing just that and, cleverly, it has built alliances with some premium paint shops to help owners create satisfying paint schemes. Were seeing more of these airplanes on ramps everywhere and they are distinctive for having a specific style with color combinations that work.
Nonetheless, paint scheme decisions are still difficult and fraught with missteps and although some owners will spend $10,000 on paint, they wont enlist the services of professionals to help them negotiate the minefield of color selection. Some paint shops are good at helping but weve also found that they prefer owners who come forward with definite ideas on what they want.
To make paint design help more accessible, Scheme Designers recently introduced a new, inexpensive Web-based service that offers owners design choices which can be picked up verbatim or modified to suit the owners whims. Since Aviation Consumers Mooney is in desperate need of paint, we took the new service for a test ride. We found it easy to use and hardly lacking in variety. When the airplane goes into the paint shop later this year, we plan to use the AircraftColor service to refine the paint design.
The new service is actually under the banner of a new name: AircraftColor.Com but the designs the site offers are from Scheme Designers ample library, which covers every popular aircraft model and more than a few niche designs and homebuilts.
Although Aircraft Color plans to offer some 4000 scheme designs on its Web site eventually, when we tried the site there werent quite that many, which may not be a bad thing, frankly. Scheme Designers is constantly adding new airplanes but the problem with all this choice is that an owner without definite ideas may have a difficult time deciding on a design.
Like looking at mug shots, you can only absorb so many samples before your eyes glaze over. Aircraft Colors solution to this is to allow the user to create a virtual hangar on the site in which appealing schemes can be temporarily stored. You can then winnow your favorites down to a few choices.
From that point, AircraftColor/Scheme Designs offers four levels of service. For $250, the company will prepare detailed drawings for your paint shop from a sample on the Web site, with no changes. For $450, you can change the color and have minor design changes, again with detailed drawings for the paint shop. (These drawings include specific paint and color callouts and dimensions for stripes and other detailing.)
If you like a paint design on a Bonanza but want it applied to a Cessna with design changes, AircraftColor will perform that service for $550. Last, the so-called Platinum package, offers the owner unlimited from-scratch design iterations, using ideas from the Web site or gleaned elsewhere. Cost: $950 for what is essentially a fully custom color design service.
AirCraftColor costs $39.95 for one month of unlimited access to the Web site and $19.95 for additional renewals. Scheme Designers credits the monthly sign up against any of the services it offers. It also offers special deals to paint shops, sales organizations and other trade sources. If you want to start from scratch, there are also blank line drawings of most popular models.
Two other things we like about this site are that it also shows models with mods such as tip tanks or speed cowlings and theres a list of paint shops in various parts of the country capable of producing the work. We know by experience that Scheme Designer principle Craig Barnett is picky about who does the paint work and that the shops listed have been accordingly vetted. Worth noting is that most of the shops on AircraftColors list drew positive reviews in our last paint shop survey, which appeared in the January, 2002 issue of Aviation Consumer.
Contact – AircraftColor.Com, 201-569-7785, www.aircraftcolor.com.