Watch a time-lapse video of what goes into painting a Southwest Boeing 737 (VIDEO).

Watch How a Huge Boeing 737 Gets a Paint Job, From Wing to Tail (Video)

Watch How a Huge Boeing 737 Gets a Paint Job, From Wing to Tail (Video)

Slate in motion.
Jan. 14 2016 10:12 AM

How to Paint a Huge Boeing 737

It's a lot of work.

Southwest Heart Paint Job

Screenshot via Slate.

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.

Southwest switched to its new look in 2014. The design reflects the airline’s “Southwest Heart” branding, and the effort required for getting the planes painted is undeniably impressive.