Recently, I noticed the clear protective tape (aviation-grade leading edge tape) I have on the extended lip on the underside of my 750 STOL's cowl was yellowing and slightly blistered where the exhaust pipe passes close by inside. I was not too surprised as it is at least 10 years old.  I had to  use a heat gun to soften the adhesive and finally got it off with no damage to the paint underneath.  However, rather than reapply new clear tape, I elected to apply to the lip a black vinyl wrap material as it looked better with my paint scheme and also can't yellow!  I insulated the inside of the lip with heat-reflective insulation to protect the area from heat from the exhaust pipe.

This got me to thinking in-general about vinyl wraps on aircraft and it occurred to me that it has been crickets lately on the forum about reports on this subject.  Seems a few years ago, several builders were reporting wrapping their entire airframes rather than paint them.  Just wondered how those wraps have fared with some time and UV exposure, etc.,  Anyone out there with an update on their experience as to how old the wrap is, condition, and fading? Also, how much exposure has it had: tied-down or hangared? Would you do it again?



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Seven years ago I wrapped my 601XL with 3m 1080 vinyl wrap (partial). Still looks like the day I put it on. No fade (plane is hangered), no lifting, no discoloration.

My plane is polished aluminum with vinyl accents. Two or three times a year I go over the polished portion with the dual orbital polisher and the Nuvite S (I think or C?). I run the polisher right over the edge of the vinyl to get an even polish and it leaves zero marks on the vinyl. Honestly, this makes no sense to me but I've been doing this many times over the 6 years and running that polisher over the vinyl leaves absolutely no marks whatsoever.

How it can "polish" (burnish?) metal, but leave no mark on vinyl is beyond me. I just know its true. I think the answer is that the process is "burnishing" the metal, not cutting it. I've read a few articles on burnishing, and they made no sense to me either....

I use Lemon Pledge to clean the vinyl and it shines like new. Very happy with the wrap. 

Looks great!


That looks great. Dripping with lightness!

Also partially wrapped my 750 STOL 4 years ago with 3m 1080.  Has been hangared, and cleaned with aviation simple green.  Still extremely pleased with the vinyl.  Did have challenges around the complex curves (cowl intakes...) - some wrinkles and working over the rivets.  Hard to beat cheaper and lighter than paint...  Would do it again.

Hi james you wrote it's lighter than paint, How much weight did it add to the airplane? Which parts did you cover?


 I did not weigh the vinyl but would estimate 2 lbs total.  Covered the fuselage, except for the bottom, the vertical and horizontal stab, and the slats.

It's not a wrap, but my 701 has vinyl graphics over the paint. The aircraft was stored out in the elements for most of its 15 year life, and except for some really detailed graphics, the vinyl held up very well on flat surfaces and pretty well over rivets and corners. There's definitely some fading in general and some cracking/peeling in the worst spots.

The fading might be restored with a good cleaning and waxing, but the graphics aren't really to my taste so I didn't try that. Removing them is much more difficult than I expected, even with Vinyl Off, a plastic scraper, and a heat gun. Some paint is coming off with the vinyl, so it's turning into a much bigger project than I anticipated.

After this experience I would definitely consider vinyl on an unpainted aircraft, but I would think hard about personalizing an aircraft by applying vinyl graphics over paint, especially if it will be stored outside long-term. I suspect that removing the graphics would be easier if they hadn't seen so much sun.


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