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Wraps Taking Off: Plane Vinyl

Wrapping aircraft is a job reserved for the experts.




“Wrapping an airplane is nothing like anything else people are used to wrapping,” says Dan Black, director of operations, Plane Vinyl (, Woodstock, Georgia.

“The liability is huge,” points out sales and marketing director Bud Newton. “If vinyl starts peeling off a boat crossing the water, no one gets hurt. If it comes off an airplane cruising at 30,000 feet, it could get somebody killed.”

That wrap must endure conditions unlike anything on the ground. A plane wrapped with vinyl may be sitting on a runway where the temperature is 130 degrees, then minutes later be cruising at more than 600 mph in the atmosphere. Temperatures there can plunge more than 50 degrees below zero. “The plane is under pressure. The vinyl has to hold even as it expands and contracts,” Newton says.

Plane Vinyl specializes in wrapping aircraft, exclusively. To date, they’ve wrapped everything from private planes to corporate jets, helicopters to jumbo airliners. Their biggest wrap yet involved covering a 74-foot airship with more than 18,000 square feet of digitally printed film.

Aircraft owners are embracing wraps for their colorful possibilities, convenience, and relatively low cost, compared to painting. Newton cites the wrap of their 20-foot Glasair III plane as an example.

“A wrap transformed the look of the plane in a day. Total cost was around $6000, compared to a $25,000 paint job. If you paint an airliner, it’s going to be out of service for six weeks,” Black says. “When you can a wrap a plane in a day or two, it’s right back in the air.”


If the cost seems excessive by vehicle wrap standards, consider what’s required. To ensure safety and compliance with all regulations, the staff includes an aviation engineer, aircraft inspector, and designated airworthiness representative. The installation team received special training and certification from 3M to handle its VS7704 and VS7322 media for aircraft.

“You’ve got issues with installation, who is qualified to work on the aircraft,” says Newtown. “An inspector must sign off on anything you do to a plane, and everything must be documented.”

If any moving part of the plane is to be wrapped, it has to be removed, then calibrated and inspected before reassembly. Any forward facing seams of the wrap must be primed and sealed to pass inspection.

For all these reasons, the pair stress, theirs is a distinct specialty best handled by those familiar with aircraft, aviation, and its stringent requirements. “In aviation, you really need to know what you’re doing or you’ll get somebody in trouble, or worse,” Newton says.

It was a big year for vehicle wraps; read our full coverage here or look through the photo gallery.




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