HulaGirl has been flying now for 18 months, 175 hours with the 3M 1080 film holding up just fine.
Alternate to paint finishes:
color wrapped finish, along with polished Aluminum.
I wanted a finish that I could do myself, within my skill set and in my hanger which does not allow spray painting. Plus a process that can be done a little each weekend while keeping the plane flight ready.
It offers a lower cost and is easy to redo for bad application technique, hanger rash, wear, or just plain getting tired of looking at it. Plus it is a clean process with little clean-up.
3M 1080 Controltac film for all colors but chrome. And Avery Conform Chrome. The 3M comes in a width of 60” (which worked great for the 8’s wing cord) and the Chrome is 48” wide. For my scheme I purchased 40 running feet of gloss Intense blue, 6’ of gloss white, 6’ of gloss black, 6’ of matte black, 5’ of gloss bright yellow and 10’ of chrome. This gave some extra for mistakes…I also used 2.5 rolls of knifeless tape
(164’ each roll), less than a pint of 3M primer and same of 3M edge sealer. All that is needed for special tools is a couple felt wrapped squeegees and an electric heat gun. I also bought and liked the Rapid Prep surface cleaner and Rapid Tac application fluid for final surface clean prep. Above all totaled $1300
Flyboy Accessories produced their Military Graphics package adding squadron letters and “HulaGirl” lettering. $480
Professional Sign and Graphics in Wilsonville OR did the HulaGirl Nose Art, Lei Tail Art (with both graphics purchased online from image stock house) plus guns produced from my photo of a museum P-51 $327
I did sneak the unfinished Cowl and Spinner to Tualatin Auto Body and they gave it back filled and painted in 4.5 days for only $810. Bringing the project total to $2900
I will share my experience on the steps I used. I am not at all saying I achieved perfection or that what I did was the right way. My expectation was a “ten foot” quality finish and I feel I attained such. But with a little redo here and there plus some more polishing I might get it down to 7 feet.
Preparation of surfaces.
The film does little to hide surface imperfections and textures. (Coverage over flush rivets and fiberglass pinholes looks great.) The same sand, fill, sand, prime and sand process could be done as with paint. But I did this prep on the more porous fiberglass like wheel pants, hand fabricated windshield and leg transitions, plus the canopy skirt. Wing and tail tips, gear leg fairings, and empennage root fairings I just lightly sanded the smooth release coat surface. I am happy with the results, especially considering the easy prep. Prep for the aluminum surfaces was just cleaning. I experimented with Applying the film over a sample that had been scotch padded and it covered fine.
Planning of cuts, shapes and applications of film.
I avoided some compound curves with planned seams. Seams should be overlapping down and aft to avoid airstream lifting and water seeping. So I started from the rear and the bottom of the plane. Most pieces were installed oversized over the top of the knifeless tape
. The knifeless tape
is applied like pin striping where you want a color line. Then after the oversized vinyl
is applied you pull the fine line through the film cutting it in the shape you outlined. Many times two applications of this tape
were used, once for the bottom or rear layer and again to make the small overlap seam of the next piece. But with flat applications like the wing Invasion Stripes
, I cut out the film with a long straight edge and razor to the final width. Then careful application of these large stripes
I lined up the seams and saved both film and tape
for the long straight color seams. I did use the tape
on the leading wing and trailing aileron/flap edges. After all colors were down I pulled the long tape
line to get a straight cut on these edges.
I applied the 3M primer on all leading edges of the planes surface a couple minutes before application, then the knifeless tape
over that. The primer turns the film adhesive to more of a contact glue instant stick. Also use the primer around openings like air ducts and tie-down screw holes, plus inside concave curved surfaces for better adhesive.
The film adhesive is pressure sensitive, goes on dry, and had micro air channels in the adhesive surface that helps prevent air bubbles. You can lay it on the prepped surface, being careful not to stick it to any 3M primer parts. I did a large percentage on the bottom of the plane, so a light finger push can be used to tack it down, line it up and still snap it back up to reposition. Work from the center out with the squeegee.
Heating the film allows it to stretch and curve. It takes some practice and re-learning with the stretch as opposed to model airplane product Monocoat, which shrinks when you heat it. (There were many times when I wished I could shrink the wrinkles out.) Heating also final sets the films adhesive and re-squeegee will force all air bubbles out. Also use heat and a cotton gloved finger to push the film over and down small bumps like rivets. I either used a sharp razorblade to trim outside edges or tucked it in and around to avoid exposure of the edge. Go back each applied piece with heat and squeegee to final set and smooth.
Two last steps are to clean the edges with alcohol, removing overlapped primer and glue. Then I used the seam sealer on leading edges.