Vinyl graphics give 'Let's Go Flying' Cirrus a new identity
A heat gun’s withering wind quickly strips away the SR22’s former identity as artisans from AirGraphics LLC prepare a new one.
The 2009 AOPA Sweepstakes “Let’s Go Flying” Cirrus SR22 is about to shed its classy, understated trim in favor of an attention-grabbing new look. But first, workers in Middleton, Wis., the same ones who design and manufacture the vinyl stripes for new Cirrus production aircraft, quickly reduce the airplane to its bare, white composite skin.
“Vinyl graphics have lots of advantages over traditional aircraft paint,” says Eric Niswonger, owner of AirGraphics. “Vinyl is far lighter. The graphics we’ll apply today weigh less than 3 ounces. That compares with 30 pounds or more for paint. Plus, we don’t have any issues with hazardous material, respirators, or toxic waste. Vinyl graphics are less expensive, they last just as long as paint, and they’re environmentally greener.”
Once the airplane’s exterior is stripped and cleaned, workers begin applying the graphics in a process that would be familiar to any model maker who has ever applied a decal. They wet the surface, apply the graphic and pull away the paper covering. The design and production process is completely computerized, and artists can reduce, expand, or alter colors at the touch of a keyboard.
About three hours after they begin applying the graphics, the 2009 “Let’s Go Flying” Cirrus is transformed.
And it’s ready to fly. There’s no waiting for the graphics to set or cure.
“Treat it just as you would a painted airplane,” Niswonger said. “Wash it. Wax it. Don’t worry about the graphics. They’re built to last. And if you spill some avgas on it, that’s not a problem either.”
The “Let’s Go Flying” Cirrus will soon embark on a national tour to promote flying and expand the general aviation pilot population. But it will fly back to AirGraphics this summer.
“As you’ve seen, it’s easy to come up with new designs and new looks for an airplane using vinyl graphics,” Niswonger said. “We’ll update the ‘Let’s Go Flying’ Cirrus with a new theme and another exterior look this summer. It’s really no trouble at all.”
March 6, 2009