Why Are Most Airplanes White?

Solo airplane 30.000 feet in the sky
Photo by Ben Klewais on Unsplash

Next time you find yourself at an airport, take a moment to look out at the tarmac. You’ll likely notice that the majority of the aircraft you see are painted white. While it might seem like a trivial detail, there’s actually a multitude of practical reasons behind this ubiquitous choice. Let’s dive into them.

Temperature Control

The primary reason for painting airplanes white is to reflect sunlight. White surfaces reflect much more sunlight than darker ones, which absorb heat. Since airplanes spend most of their time above the clouds where they are fully exposed to sunlight, using white paint helps minimize the absorption of heat, thereby reducing the temperature of the aircraft. 

Cost and Maintenance Efficiency

White paint also helps reduce operational costs. White planes are easier to keep cool, meaning less air conditioning is required. Additionally, any cracks, leaks, or damages on the exterior of an aircraft are easier to spot on a white background. This makes routine inspections more effective and maintenance easier.

Resale Value

Lastly, airlines often buy and sell aircraft from and to each other. A white airplane is like a blank canvas that makes it easier for the purchasing airline to paint their own livery without extensive repainting costs.