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Marking Myth - It's Easy

By Donna Speidel

    In our first day of our Airfield Marking Symposiums, I take the time to address some common misconceptions prevalent in our industry - marking myths, if you will. These myths are in large part responsible for why airport markings are not as good as they should and could be. Today, I'm busting the myth, "Painting airport markings is easy":

"Any monkey can do it," said an airport maintenance supervisor to his paint crew. "You don't need any training, just go paint."

"I've been doing this for 20 years!" said a striping contractor when challenged by our QC technician. "I know what I'm doing!!" After looking at the markings up close with a magnifying glass, he confessed, "But I didnít know you were going to use a microscope!"

    And then there's the airport that decides to save money by buying its own striping equipment to avoid paying the price of a contractor to paint its markings. "Just put the paint in the machine, and spray it out - It's as easy as that!" When I asked, "What about the glass beads?", he proudly replied, "No problem. We have this fertilizer spreader we use for that."

    Okay, so let's get this straight (no pun intended): a paint machine + paint + a person (or monkey in a pinch) with a heartbeat = good, effective, long-lasting markings? Oh, right, and another person with a good throwing arm to toss the beads... Perfect!

    I think we'd all be amazed at how many airports and contractors paint markings like that. We've seen the results at many of them, and it's downright scary. If the traveling public knew what the markings performed like at many airports, both big and small, they'd travel by hot air balloon.

    So it is a myth. The fact is, installing markings three feet wide in a single pass with the right amount of paint and glass beads falling on the wet paint simultaneously isn't that difficult. But it does require the intent to do it well, and the attention to the details of doing it right. It certainly helps to:

  1. Have the right equipment to do the job.
  2. Train the painters to do it properly.
  3. Train the inspectors to know what to inspect.
  4. Specify the proper materials to suit the airport environment.
  5. Expect the markings to last two years or more.

    We can help every airport in the world improve its marking system, with its own people or with a contractor. It may not be difficult to do, but it takes the right attitude to do it correctly.

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