Why Airplanes Are Painted White


Here’s a quick test: think of an orange. What color is it? Okay, that was too easy. Let’s try again: think of an airliner! Is the jet you imagined painted white? No surprises there since most of them are. But I got to thinking: why is that? Well, I’m a curious soul with a healthy obsession
of airplanes, so I couldn’t just leave this question unanswered. And here’s what I found… Oh, hang on, I hear the hecklers in the back. I know not ALL planes are white. Yes, there are plenty of colorful ones. For example, Mango, an airline that operates
in South Africa, paints its planes bright orange. The Hungarian-based Wizz Air has planes that
are partially painted bright pink and purple. (Hmm, I would’ve guessed another color that
rhymes with mellow…) And there’s always the Siberian carrier
S7 with their bright green planes. But these are more of a rare exception. The general rule goes like this: “You’re
better off painting your aircraft white!” I bet your summer wardrobe has at least a
couple of white items, be it a T-shirt, a pair of pants, or a light tanktop. The main reason people prefer white on a hot
day is its uncanny ability to reflect sunlight! Compare that to dark colors that absorb sunlight,
and you quickly understand why you feel like you’re boiling on a summer day while wearing
black. So, just like with clothing, aircraft producers
use white paint to keep airplanes cool. It minimizes the heating as well as the potential
harm from solar radiation. Planes have some parts made from plastic,
carbon fiber, and fiberglass. Those things in particular need the most protection
from the blazing sun. That’s why all the control surfaces of the
plane, along with the nose cone, should always be white. Concorde, a French-British supersonic passenger
airliner, was covered with a special extra reflective white paint. Otherwise, it wouldn’t have withstood the
heat that generated when the plane flew at such high speeds. I’m talking twice the speed of sound, meaning
Concorde moved at a staggering 1,355 mph when it was in use! The next reason for painting planes white
is even more practical. Like a lot of things, it comes down to money. It’s just cheaper to have white-colored
aircraft. You see, all airplanes start out white when
they’re made. But what if an airline decides to paint theirs,
say, bright yellow? First of all, an additional layer of paint
will add more than 1,000 lb of weight to the aircraft. More weight means more fuel burnt, and that
can get pricey! If you thought gas was expensive, try filling
up a jumbo jet! Besides, the paint itself costs a pretty penny
too. That is, at least $50,000 or up to $200,000
to paint just one plane! Uh-oh, that’s a bit more than I was planning
to spend today… And if you decide to sell your airplane one
day, it’ll be way harder for you to get rid of a bright yellow flying machine than
an ordinary white one. Nobody wants to spend extra money covering
that up! Also, if a plane has some damage, such as
a crack, dent, or oil spill, the white background makes it much easier to spot and repair the
fault. Plus, if a crash happens and the aircraft
goes down, –oops that’s out of sequence, let’s try it again: if the aircraft goes
down and a crash happens –yeah that’s more better — rescuers will be able to locate
a white plane much faster. Finally, one 2011 study found that birds don’t
fly into white or light-colored planes as often as they do with darker ones. Ok, that answers my question. But why do they have to fly sooo high? The cruising altitude of most commercial jets
is about 35,000 ft. Ooof, don’t look down! Why can’t they fly just high enough to avoid
crashing into tall things like skyscrapers and mountains? Turns out this altitude isn’t some randomly
chosen number. First of all, the higher you rise above the
ground, the thinner the air becomes. It means that aircraft face less resistance
and burn less fuel to fly through such a thin atmosphere. Granted, there are models that do better in
the thicker air at lower altitudes, but I’m generalizing here. Anyway, planes have one more crucial reason
for flying so high, and you’ll like this one! At higher altitudes, there’s no need to worry
about flying into a thunderstorm or getting stuck in a cloud. Just kidding on that last bit. But even though planes CAN travel through
clouds, it isn’t a smooth ride because of turbulence. Yes, the dreaded “T” word often sends
passengers into a panic when they feel it. No pilot or crew wants to deal with that if
they can avoid it! The takeaway here? Keep your seat belt fastened at ALL TIMES
while the plane is in the air. The 35,000-ft cruising altitude is also much
higher than most birds fly. And since a bird or two can bring an entire
plane down (it’s rare, don’t worry), it’s still better to be safe than sorry. Even if the plane comes out the winner, that’s
still a lot of expensive damage! And last but not least, if something goes
wrong during the flight and the plane starts to plummet, the height will play the role
of a “safety cushion.” Such an altitude may buy the pilots necessary
time to fix the problem! Ok, planes need to be really high up, got
it. But what about those holes in the windows? That’s a little unsettling, especially when
you find out that it’s called “the bleed hole.” Egh… Well, despite the questionable name, it’s
there for your safety! The aircraft cabin is pressurized during the
flight. If it wasn’t, you and everyone else – including
the pilots! – would pass out as soon as the plane got to its cruising altitude. You ever wonder why they turn up the AC and
pump all that air into the cabin? It’s a way to create the same air pressure
your body is used to on the ground. Meanwhile, the difference between the pressure
outside and inside the cabin is so great that the inner condensed air desperately struggles
to get out of the plane where it’s a lot roomier! Enter the ominous hole. The thing is, plane windows have three panes. The first one is the one you leave your fingerprints
on as you curiously investigate what looks like something that shouldn’t be there. The second, with the bleed hole in it, is
in the middle. And the outer takes all the brunt of the pressure
difference. The purpose of the tiny hole is to make sure
that the cabin pressure is applied only to the outer pane. Also, if something happens to this third pane
and it gets smashed, the middle layer will be able to protect you from the lack of air
pressure outside. So, yet again, nothing to worry about – aircraft
engineers know what they’re doing! And there’s one more question that seems
to bother a lot of people: why don’t airplanes fly over the North Pole? It turns out that planes must follow super
strict rules when it comes to their flight routes. For example, commercial planes aren’t allowed
to fly over Tibet due to the towering peaks of the Himalayas. But surely the plane’s cruising altitude is
higher than even the tallest mountain in the world? Well, yeah, but not by much. Everest is 29,029 ft tall. That’s only a 6,000-ft difference from the
cruising altitude. A little too close for comfort… But that’s not all. Imagine this: during a flight over the Himalayas,
decompression occurs in the cabin, and all the passengers need to put their oxygen masks
on immediately. Within a span of 15 to 20 minutes, the plane
would need to descend to an altitude where passengers will be able to breathe again. The problem is, there’s a bunch of mountains
in the way! Alright, we’re heading off course. Let’s return the question of avoiding the
Arctic. Admittedly, there might be charter flights
that will deliver you to the North Pole. As for commercial airlines, it’s a big no-no. First, a plane must always be within 60 minutes
of an airport where it can land in case of an emergency. Now, this rule applies only to 2-engine airplanes. So, big ones with 3 or 4 engines can cross
the Arctic? Mmm, negative. If a plane goes down and crashes up there,
it’ll be next to impossible for survivors to endure such harsh conditions for very long. Not to mention, pilots say flying close to
one of the Earth’s magnetic poles is a nightmare since navigational equipment tends to wig
out! Not to mention you’re also getting into
Santa’s airspace, and he’s keeping a list and checking it twice, so you don’t want
to be naughty – you want to be nice. So there. Anyway, What’s something you’ve always
wondered about airplanes or aviation in general? Let me know down in the comments! If you learned something new today, then give
this video a like and share it with a friend. But – hey! – don’t go painting your airplane
yellow just yet! We have over 2,000 cool videos for you to
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video, click on it, and enjoy! Stay on the Bright Side of life!