Aircraft PainterJob Description, Salary, Career Path, and Trends

An aircraft painter is responsible for painting and polishing aircraft. To prepare the plane for paints and finishes, an aircraft painter cleans the surfaces and parts. Aircraft painters also set up and ready the equipment used to apply paint, epoxy, and other materials to the aircraft. In addition, they create a pre-design before applying the paint to the plane.

Aircraft painting is physically demanding work. It also requires a knowledge of various techniques used to ensure that paint remains on the correct surfaces, including masking and sanding surfaces. Aircraft painters are responsible for maintaining their equipment between jobs and ensuring they are ready for the next task. They make repairs to old paint jobs using color matching software and appropriate touch-up paints and finishes.

Sample job description

Airlines take great pride in their aircraft’s painting and appearance as a way for the public to recognize their aircraft while they fly. As a result of company growth and more work available, [Your Company Name] is hiring aircraft painters. We are looking for someone detail-oriented who takes pride in their workmanship. Those we hire will have two years of experience, and we expect your skills to continue improving as you gain more experience. Beginners will apply chemical paint stripping solution and prepare the aircraft to be painted with cleaning, masking, and sanding while those with more experience will apply the stripe, registration, and logo to the aircraft. If you are reliable, willing to work with minimal supervision, and you are ready to learn, you are a great candidate for this position.  

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Using tools and paint remover solutions, remove old paint from aircraft body and spare parts
  • Clean, sand and scratch aircraft surfaces to prepare them for painting
  • Apply epoxy, polish, resin or other materials to metal aircraft surfaces before applying the final color coat
  • Mix paint pigments to create desired colors
  • Mask and outline aircraft body to paint airline logo and livery, numerals, and brand name letters
  • Follow safety regulations and wear protective gear during spray painting operations

Education and experience

This position requires a high school diploma or equivalent.

Required skills and qualifications

  • Knowledge of the properties of various paints, finishes, and paint removers
  • Teamwork and interpersonal communication skills
  • Strong hand-eye coordination and proficiency in using tools
  • Sufficient physical strength and dexterity to climb on aircraft and manipulate painting equipment
  • Knowledge of the use, handling, and disposal of hazardous materials

Preferred qualifications

  • 3+ years working with aircraft
  • Experience working at high heights
  • Excellent steadiness in your hands
  • Strong self-starter attitude

Average salary and compensation

The average salary for aircraft painter is 53,800 in the United States. Position salary will vary based on experience, education, company size, industry, and market.

LocationSalary LowSalary High
Phoenix, Arizona$53,500$72,400
Los Angeles, California$60,350$81,650
Denver, Colorado$50,300$68,050
Washington, DC$61,300$82,900
Miami, Florida$50,100$67,750
Orlando, Florida$46,200$62,500
Tampa, Florida$46,650$63,100
Atlanta, Georgia$48,950$66,200
Chicago, Illinois$56,250$76,100
Boston, Massachusetts$60,800$82,300
Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota$48,450$65,600
New York City, New York$64,000$86,600
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania$52,150$70,550
Dallas, Texas$50,750$68,700
Houston, Texas$50,300$68,050
Seattle, Washington$58,550$79,200
National Average$45,750$61,850

Typical work environment

Aircraft painters will work indoors as well as outdoors. Painting can be physically demanding and involves bending, reaching, lifting, and repetitive hand movements. You may be asked to work at extreme heights or in an awkward position. You will also be expected to be able to use any personal protective equipment and will be expected to handle and store chemicals safely. 

Typical hours

Aircraft painters usually work full-time, Monday through Friday, from 9 AM to 5 PM.

Available certifications

There are no degrees required to become an aircraft painter, but companies may be looking for a certificate indicating you have done vocational training or have work experience.

  • Aircraft Painter Certification Scheme (APCS). This course was created to indicate to potential employers that you are competent to work safely on and around an aircraft. Someone is eligible for this certification after completing a closed-book examination, which may be taken after a short course or may be taken by an experienced aircraft painter without the class. Course topics include paint application techniques, safety of the aircraft and painters, spray gun maintenance and use, aircraft design and mandatory markings, and paint removal techniques.  
  • SSPC Aerospace Coating Application Specialist Certification (ACAS). This two-day assessment certifies that experienced aircraft painters have the experience and training required to prepare and paint aircraft. This is a hands-on exam where applicants will need to be able to answer questions verbally and troubleshoot if necessary. There is no written exam. 

Career path

This position requires a high school diploma or its equivalent. Successful aircraft painters can advance into leadership roles such as lead painter, maintenance manager, or field supervisor.

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 51-9123

2020 Employment155,800
Projected Employment in 2030167,300
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 7% increase
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift11,600 increase

According to the American Coatings Association, a national trade group, increased demand for aircraft due to rising passenger air traffic increases the need for aircraft paints, coatings, and adhesives. However, many companies are turning to automation technologies in aircraft assembly. That means more frequent use of robots to mix and apply paints, rather than using human painters.

Another trend in the aircraft painter field is the advent of primerless polyurethane topcoats. They don’t need an application of primer before being applied, leading to reduced labor, lighter weight, and reduced vapor emissions. They also dry more quickly, enabling aircraft painters to accomplish more tasks in the same amount of time. The military is developing and using these materials, but private companies are beginning to create products with similar properties for use in the private sector.

Sample interview questions

  • What are your strengths as an aircraft painter?
  • What motivates you at work?
  • Tell me about something you excelled at in your painting training and work experience.
  • Are you comfortable working at heights?
  • What do you like about aircraft painting?
  • What do you not like about aircraft painting?
  • What do you do when you have a question but your supervisor is gone?
  • Tell me about your favorite painting project you have done.
  • How do you decide how many coats of paint are needed?
  • Tell me about a time where your actions didn’t line up with your core values.
  • What is your ideal workspace environment?
  • Imagine halfway through your paint job, the airline changes how they want to paint the plane. What do you do?
  • When do you think it is better to use an airless spray gun instead of a brush?
  • Tell me about a time you made a mistake. How did you handle it? 
  • In this job, you need to have great attention to detail. Can you think of a time you noticed something others may have missed?
  • Describe a time you received criticism from your supervisor. How did you respond to it? 
  • How would you prepare an aircraft for painting?

Aircraft Painter Jobs in Ashburn

    Loading RSS Feed

Need help hiring an Aircraft Painter?

We match top professionals with great employers across the country. Your next career move or star employee is just around the corner. Review our career content and advice, browse our latest job openings, or email us your resume. We look forward to connecting with you soon!

Browse A-Z Job Descriptions