Airbus has completed painting Lufthansa's initial A380 in its distinctive blue and white livery, readying this next-generation aircraft for handover to Germany's national airline later this year.
A staff of 154 worked on the aircraft during four shifts at Airbus' high-tech A380 paint shop in Hamburg, Germany. The precision job - performed completely by hand - required eight "cherry pickers" and four elevated work platforms. In addition to actual painting, the two- to three-week process is comprised of cleaning, grinding, masking and unmasking the aircraft's 3,500 square metres of fuselage surface.
Airbus uses the most modern and environmentally-friendly techniques to paint the A380, including chromate-free primer and electrostatic pistols that minimise paint mist. Components are freshly mixed, enabling fast-drying paint to be used and reducing the amount of paint needed by about 200 litres. In addition, used air is cleaned and washed through a multi-stage cleaning process to ensure that paint particles are disposed of separately.
The dry weight of the paint applied is only around 650 kilogrammes, since each layer is thinner than a human hair. Each durable coat is able to withstand differences in temperatures of about 100 degrees Celsius.
"I've been doing this job for 20 years - three years on the A380 - but I still feel excited every time an aircraft leaves the paint shop," said Bernd Ahrens, A380 paint shop production manager.
Lufthansa has been building excitement for this aircraft's upcoming service introduction, recently launching a competition on its interactive A380 mini-website to find a catchy nickname for the new jetliner. Lufthansa's first A380 will be used mainly on routes to Asia and North America from the carrier's Frankfurt, Germany hub.