Composite Aircraft Painting

Miles Bowen

Originally published April 1998

Our guest speaker for this meeting was Mr. Jon Goldenbaum, the proprietor of Poly-Fiber Aircraft Coatings and Chapter 1000 member. Jon's background includes 20 years in the Air Force, and 6 years with Delta Airlines. After flying A-1's in Vietnam, his 6 years of straight-and-level with Delta were boring by comparison.

Jon has restored many of the old tube-and-rag airplanes such as Cubs, Champs, Stinsons, and Taylorcraft. Jon worked for a while helping to run Alexander Aeroplane, then eventually bought the Poly-Fiber business from Ray Stits.

Even though Poly-Fiber carries several good solvent-based finishing systems, Jon has become fearful that they may be on their way out, due to safety and environmental concerns. To ensure the continuance of his livelihood, Jon has spent the last several years developing a line of water-borne, non-hazardous aircraft finishing products known as the Flight Gloss System. While Jon doesn't claim that his new system is superior to the best solvent-bases systems, he does feel that it is not far behind, and that it is only a matter of time before superior non-hazardous systems are developed.

For finishing composite surfaces, the Flight Gloss System consists of four products: SuperFil, Smooth Prime, Silver Shield, and Top Gloss. For preparing steel and aluminum surfaces, Metal Prime is available. The Top Gloss product is suitable for application as the color coat on both composites and metal. All products are polyurethane-based (similar to Imron or Aero-Thane) but are water-borne to eliminate fire danger and reduce toxicity concerns. All products are crosslinked to provide moisture and chemical resistance.

The waterborne fabric covering system is still in development and not available to the general public. Jon does not want to sell it until he has at least five years of experience with it sitting in the desert sun and other climate conditions. Other waterborne systems have gotten a bad reputation because they were released before they were fully developed. No, he doesn't just have a bunch of frames sitting outside behind the Poly-Fiber factory. He has the contract to maintain the fabric covered control surfaces on the aircraft at the March AFB museum, which are, of course, sitting outside. He will only release it sooner if the EPA forces him into it. Until then, the Poly-Fiber system is still as good as it ever was.

However, the Flight Gloss System for composites is for sale to the general (aviation) public. Although not difficult to apply, this system is different from solvent based systems, and instructions need to be followed to the letter. What you may think you know may not apply to this system. A brochure and detailed Flight Gloss Finishing System manual are available free of charge from Poly-Fiber.

Thank you Jon for a very interesting, informative, and non-pushy-salesman-like presentation.

(A video of this meeting (and many others) is available in the Chapter 1000 library. Contact Russ Erb)

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Contents of The Leading Edge and these web pages are the viewpoints of the authors. No claim is made and no liability is assumed, expressed or implied as to the technical accuracy or safety of the material presented. The viewpoints expressed are not necessarily those of Chapter 1000 or the Experimental Aircraft Association.
Revised -- 25 September 1998