Emirates, a global connector of people and places, operates the world’s largest fleets of A380s and Boeing 777s, and to serve these aircraft, it runs the world’s largest state-of-the-art aircraft paint hangar owned by an airline.
Located at Dubai International Airport, Emirates’ paint hanger is more than twice the size of a football field, and has been designed to deliver quality that exceeds even the standards of aircraft manufacturers.
In 2013, Emirates’ advanced paint hangar completely stripped 21 aircraft (or nearly 10% of its fleet) of exterior paint and gave them a brand new coat. It took 6,550 hours in total, or 273 days and nights of non-stop stripping and repainting, to complete these “make-overs”. In addition to these major projects, the paint shop was kept fully engaged with over 60,000 other paint touch-up jobs on the exteriors and interiors of the aircraft, as well as cabin items.
“Our aircraft livery is one of the most recognisable and visible aspects of our brand. It is what people see in the sky, and the first thing our passengers see at their boarding gates. We take pride in maintaining our aircraft to the highest possible standards, and it is important our planes look pristine on the outside as well as on the inside,” said Adel Al Redha, Executive Vice President and Chief Operations Officer, Emirates.
“It’s not just about looking good. The paint coat has to withstand fierce weather conditions, including severe wind, bitter cold and searing heat, and an exterior coat that is clean of debris and imperfections improves aerodynamics and reduces fuel consumption. Emirates already flies a young and efficient fleet, but with fuel prices at consistently high levels, every little bit of efficiency counts,” he added.
Emirates previously had a minor paint booth in its Dubai hub to manage minor jobs while outsourcing the big projects to an external supplier. Building its own paint hanger has helped the airline to better control total quality, and co-ordinate flight operations scheduling. Since the paint hangar started operations in August 2010, it has completed 59 full aircraft “strip-and-repaint” projects and several hundred thousand aircraft component paintings.
After every seven to eight years in service, Emirates fully strips its aircraft of their exterior colour and gives them a brand-new coat. A Boeing 777 requires a team of 26 to 30 people for a full strip-and-repaint project, which is turned around in just 12 to 13 days.
Emirates’ paint hanger operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It employs highly skilled and specialised staff for this purpose, and uses the latest technologies and systems including fully-controlled environments that regulate temperature, humidity and airflow – all of which are critical factors for the perfect glossy coat.
Since the airline’s launch in 1985, all Emirates aircraft wear their white coat with the iconic golden Emirates letters and tail fin in the colours of the flag of the United Arab Emirates.
The branding underwent a subtle change only once in 2000. The flag was redesigned to appear as though it was flowing in the wind and the letters assumed the new Emirates typeface making them softer and more in-keeping with the Arabic calligraphy. The new look had a buoyant tone making it more contemporary, yet retained the classic look which had become well-known since 1985.
Emirates’ first A380, which entered service in August 2008, will be due for a full repaint in 2015. Emirates operates the largest fleet of A380 with 44 in total and an additional 96 on order. It also operates the world’s largest fleet of Boeing 777s with 132 in service and 210 more on order.
Time lapse painting of a Boeing 777: