One in a million finish…and pilot By Randy Dufault, EAA AirVenture Today
Photo by Phil Weston
Airplane Wrap by Iconography
Kozloff, a World War II Navy aviator from Santa Paula, California, is 85 years young and, from what he hears, is one of only 300 or so active pilots in the United States of that age. Since the population of the United States is about 300 million, that makes Kozloff a true one-in-a-million pilot.
July 29, 2009 – Oshkosh, Wisconsin – Not long ago Alex Kozloff read an article about new vinyl appliqué technologies for creating graphic designs on airplanes. He was looking to put the final finish on the Pulsar he had been flying in a primer coat for four years, and the article prompted an idea.
“I contacted [the writer], and he gave me the name of an outfit that did the work,” Kozloff said. “The shop said they did sides of airplanes and tails, so I asked has anyone wrapped a whole airplane?
“He replied, ‘No, oh no, nobody’s ever done that.’”
Kozloff’s idea: wrap the entire Pulsar in vinyl, avoiding the need to apply a finish coat of traditional paints.
“So, being an EAA member, I thought I would be the first one, at least to my knowledge, to completely vinyl-wrap an airplane,” he said.
Unless one examines the plane very closely, the sleek taildragger appears to have an intricate, hand-painted and airbrushed graphic scheme, a scheme that Kozloff estimated would have cost $25,000 to $30,000 to apply.
Instead, the yellow, white, black, and gray design honoring his pet cockatoo, Crystal, came out of an industrial color printer.
One significant challenge was finding someone to actually take on the job once he found it impractical to do it himself.
Full-wrap technology has been used on land vehicles for some time now.
“There are a number of companies specializing in auto wrap, especially in the Los Angeles area,” Kozloff said. “So I contacted four. Only one expressed any interest in working with me.”
His first desire was to simply wrap the airplane in a single color. But the firm quickly convinced him that he could do so much more.
Ultimately the cockatoo design, which appears on the bottom of the airplane and the top, developed as Kozloff worked with the firm’s graphic designer.
The material covering the plane consists of a number of layers, including the vinyl base, the color and design, and a laminated clear protective coat on the top. Heat-activated adhesive permanently bonds the material to the plane’s composite skin.
Kozloff learned during the project, however, that all the same prep work— filling, sanding, and priming activities necessary before painting a plane— must still be completed before applying the material.
And the vinyl covering is no more forgiving of shortcuts than traditional paints. Overall the wrap job cost about $6,000, substantially less than the hand painting of a similar design. It did add 15 pounds to the weight of the airframe.
Kozloff and his plane are here at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2009 all week. He plans to be available by the plane each day at around 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. to answer questions. It is located just east of Homebuilders Headquarters.
Kozloff is obviously extremely pleased with the result. “This Pulsar is just a beautiful airplane,” he said. “But like a beautiful woman, if you dress it to the nines, it just becomes gorgeous.”
“Of course, since this is an emerging technology, I fully expected to see two other [vinyl-wrapped] airplanes here.”
But Kozloff has not yet seen any other examples here, so the Pulsar may well be the only flying example of the technology. Since there are not a million airplanes in the worldwide fleet, his plane might not be exactly one in a million, but it is, for now anyway, certainly one-of-a-kind, nonetheless.
Not so, though, for the pilot.