The History of the Green Aircraft

April 20, 2017 | Author: Jeremy Dingman

In 1909, Henry Ford famously commented, “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.” Of course, Ford was referring to his pioneering Model T platform product with a strategy of producing an affordable car for the world.

Green AircraftRecently, a non-aerospace friend asked why brand new aircraft all look so . . . green. Apparently he had been watching video coverage of the first flight of the Citation Longitude super-midsize jet and got curious about the color decision. “Are they all painted green? And why such an unflattering tint?"

I was happy to explain after recently learning that new aircraft models are indeed called “green aircraft,” but not because some harried or discombobulated designer just likes the color.

No, the term arises because every unpainted airplane is nominally green from being coated (typically) with an anti-corrosive green zinc chromate or zinc phosphate primer over the aluminum skins. The different shades of green simply tell you that different vendors produced the different pieces—they don’t all use the exact same primer. (If you watch the first flight video linked above and happen to notice some blue areas on this aircraft, they’re lightweight composite materials, not aluminum.)

Of course the precise coloring is not as important as the chemical composition.

So whose bright idea was this?

According to “Everything You Need to Know About Zinc Chromate,” the corrosion-resistant agent was developed by Ford Motor Company in the 1920s, subsequently adopted in commercial aviation and later by the U.S. military. Official United States Army Air Corps (USAAC) notes mention successful application of zinc chromate primer starting from 1933 but it was not adopted as standard until 1936.

Green AircraftIn the U.S. aircraft industry, zinc chromate was in widespread use by the outbreak of World War II. However, Germany and other “axis powers” didn't use it at all, relying on lacquer-based protective coatings. The British adopted it in their aircraft production starting with the Martin-Baker MB5 in 1945.

Of course first-flight aircraft are pretty much empty but they’re completely flyable airframes, (though certainly nothing the ultimate customer will be able to put into service until the interior has been designed, engineered, and installed by a completion center and gets its certificate of airworthiness).

But it’s that first flight of an all-new aircraft design that captures the passion of everyone in the industry. It’s one of the milestone events that occur uniquely in aerospace.

In reality, though, the key event is actually not the first flight; you want to watch for the second and third flights of that new airplane, which should happen within a week of the first flight if all is going well.

Another Cessna work in progress, the Citation Hemisphere, features the Honeywell Primus Epic cockpit and is expected to make its first flight in 2019.

Meanwhile, we’re pleased to see that the Citation Longitude—cited as having more range, greater payload or higher cruise speed at a lower total ownership cost—is progressing well since its maiden flight last October.

Powered by two Honeywell HTF7700L turbofan engines and sporting Honeywell’s 36-150 auxiliary power unit (APU), cabin pressurization and air conditioning systems, along with avionics products such as radios and guidance gear, the Citation Longitude will offer industry-leading fuel efficiency when it enters service this year.

First they need to complete testing, fit it out . . . and get it painted something nice.

Jeremy Dingman

Jeremy Dingman

Jeremy is a Senior Channel Marketing Specialist in the Business and General Aviation division of Honeywell Aerospace. Jeremy joined Honeywell in October of 2015 and has a background in copy writing, digital marketing, sales and social media in the financial industry.

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