As the time-lapse video above shows, a lot more work and craftsmanship goes into painting a factory-fresh Boeing 737 than one might think. It’s an expensive process, with an estimated cost between $100,000 to $200,000, depending on the colors and level of detail involved. It requires a ton of effort. The paint on a 777, for example, adds about 555 pounds to the weight of the aircraft. And that’s dry—the weight of a wet paint job is more than 1,000 pounds.
Insiders refer to newly built airliners as “green jets,” since they emerge from the manufacturing process with a green, anti-corrosive coating that protects their aluminum skin. That coating then has to be washed off before painting can begin. When an already-in-use jet needs a new paint job, it has to be sanded and stripped with a liquid kept at 25 degrees Celsius, which is capable of getting the job done in 24 hours.
From there, it’s a layer of primer and light gray before the custom-mixed colors. Each layer takes about 12 hours to apply. The Southwest name is applied as a decal, followed by painstaking masking with tape and other coverings. And then more paint.