Sunday, May 22, 2011

Aircraft Registration Marks

Part of the process of getting an aircraft at the Cold War Air Museum ready for certification is complying with the external marking requirements of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

FAR 45.22 provides a few things that are unique to Experimental Exhibition aircraft:

1) "N numbers" can be as little as 2 inches tall and;

2) Instead of the word "EXPERIMENTAL" on the outside of the aircraft, an X can be placed in the second digit of the "N number" to identify the aircraft in the experimental category.

These concessions allow an aircraft to be displayed close to its original military markings, without as many visual distractions. After going through this ordeal with his own plane, one of the museum benefactors bought a stencil machine to help us with this process and Jon has provided some pictures and a description from one of the current projects, below.

First, the stencil must be designed using the vinyl cutting program. Stencil material can be up to 15 inches wide and the image can either be "positive" (blocking paint from the surface), or "negative" (the stencil is painted over and then removed, leaving a painted image behind).

Here, a "negative" is applied to the aircraft.

Then masking is added to limit over-spray on the rest of the aircraft and the floor.

And paint is applied.

Finally, the stencil is removed. Some experience is helpful at this step, as the paint must be dry enough to leave clean edges but not so dry that it pulls up with the stencil.

The result is a very nice "N number" of precisely the desired size and style.

Watch for more updates on this aircraft in the near future!

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