Rumor: A New American Airlines Livery

The rumor mill is back in full force to answer one of my questions regarding American Airlines purchase of Airbus A320s, specifically how will they paint the aircraft. Since Airbus aircraft come with a bonded primer and do not use Alclad, you cannot get the polished metal look that has been a staple at American for decades starting with their DC-3s.


American has always stuck by their no-paint scheme including explanations in their American Way magazine

The unpainted plane became an American hallmark in the 1930s when the Douglas DC-3, which was developed specifically for American, became the workhorse of the commercial airline fleet.

While other carriers chose various color schemes for their aircraft exteriors, American's managers admired the metalworking craftsmanship and the crisp, no-nonsense, high-quality look of the DC-3's gleaming aluminum skin. Since they thought the airplanes looked great as they were, they saw no reason to add paint.

In the years since, the aesthetics of the exterior have gotten even better. Today, the fuselages of most commercial jet aircraft are made of "Alclad," which is a thin sheet of pure aluminum bonded over the various metals used in an airplane's structure.

In addition to the aesthetic, there are several very tangible benefits to our gleaming livery. No paint means less weight, and less weight translates into reduced fuel burn and lower operating costs.

Meanwhile United has changed liveries four times in the past two decades and Delta about thirty. (Delta has a number of misteps in that area in my opinion, but I'll leave that for another post).

When American received their first Airbus A300s they were painted grey and the AA livery was applied over the grey. It was close, but always looked odd.


And there are sevearal American Eagle aircraft that are painted white.


With the 787's on order, made of a large percentage of composites, a new scheme may finally be necessary. What do you think the new livery should be? A departure from bare metal look to something white? Do you see the famous cheat line going away?  Should the long in the tooth Helvetica font go away for something more modern? Personally I'm pushing for a revival of one of the older more agrressive looking logos.




Jim July 27, 2011 at 07:33 pm

I'm so bummed about American Airlines buying Airbus airplanes. Maybe by the time they accept delivery someone will have taken them over.

I flew on one of those DC-3's!

Kevin July 28, 2011 at 02:36 pm

I really hope they get not just a new livery... but also decide not to paint the things to look like giant tin cans - it hurts my eyes when the sun reflects off those things!

Mike July 28, 2011 at 04:47 pm

@Jim: Did you fly on the Flagship Detroit Foundation DC-3 pictured above?

@Kevin: lol, I had no idea that a livery could cause so much pain. You should write for compenstation. ;)

I like the current livery--if it aint broke, don't fix it...

With the Airbus planes, I would do what they did with the A300s.

In honor of NWA, DL should call the "widget" the NW compass..

p.s. I like the pre-97 DL livery.

I've always liked the pre-97. That was the livery they had when my dad taught me how to identify planes as we looked out onto the ATL runways.
I was indifferent to 2000-2007, didn't much care for 97-2000. I thought that I hated the newer livery, but it has really, really grown on me.
And nothing should be done to "honor" NWA.

Drew November 30, 2011 at 06:13 pm

They need a splash of color. The grey painted engines and tail look very dull. Spirit Air's recent livery before they changed used A320's with a silver look. AA could perhaps have silver bodies with some color on the engines and tail instead of grey.

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