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Wrap it up II: outdoor aircraft display gets vinyl treatment

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EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. — After finding success with vinyl wrapping an indoor aircraft display, the Air Force Armament Museum’s director took that innovative idea outdoors.

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EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. — After finding success with vinyl wrapping an indoor aircraft display, the Air Force Armament Museum’s director took that innovative idea outdoors.

David Fitzpatrick, 96th Test Wing, applied his 2019 iSpark-funded, vinyl-wrapping notion to an F-86 Sabre display behind the museum’s main building here.  Once completed, the aircraft will be the first Air Force outdoor display to undergo this process.

The museum director chose the F-86 because it represented a specific era of aircraft, i.e. Korean War era.  The first aircraft wrapped was the WWII-era P-51.

The goal of selecting an aircraft from different eras allows the museum employees to study how wrapping affects their respective components, according to Fitzpatrick.  Vinyl wrapping is frequently used on yachts, racecars, luxury and advertising vehicles instead of paint.

F-86 Sabre Eglin Air Force Base Armament Museum vinyl wrap

An F-86F Sabre aircraft display, currently in the process of being vinyl wrapped, sits outside the Air Force Armament Museum at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The Sabre marks the first time an Air Force aircraft outdoor display will be wrapped in vinyl instead of receiving a paint update. Air Force museum leadership had to approve this new idea and it was funded through the 96th Test Wing innovation office. (U.S Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)

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Typically, a new brush-roll paint job for an outdoor aircraft takes a three-person volunteer crew approximately three months to complete.  In the Florida sun and heat, the display would need another coat of paint after five years, according to Fitzpatrick.

Fried Color Graphics, who wrapped the P-51 last summer, works on the Sabre a bit each day.  The weather and heat slowed the pace of the outdoor project.

“It has been quite the challenge, as the outdoor elements are a great factor for how much can be done on any given day,” said Gary Householder, of the area’s wind, storms, humidity and heat of late.  “After 8:30 a.m. the surface of the plane becomes too hot to work the vinyl properly and the plane doesn’t cool down enough to work on until after 6 p.m.”

Householder, whose wrapping experience is primarily with cars, used a seven-year sustainable vinyl on the currently 80% completed display.  Both Householder and Fitzpatrick cannot say how long the shine and luster will last.  That is because the Sabre is the first to be vinyl wrapped and thus the test display to answer those questions.

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The black and yellow paint scheme represents the most famous F-86, the Beauteous Butch, the aircraft of Capt. Joseph McConnell.  McConnell, who was the top fighter ace in the Korean War, named the F-86 using his wife’s nickname.

Once again, the results of Fitzpatrick’s wrapping experiment have proved exceptional.

“It came out better than expected,” said Fitzpatrick.  “We are very happy with the results.”

The museum’s F-16 Fighting Falcon is the next display scheduled for the wrap treatment here.

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