From VH-VUC in December 2013 to VH-VUL in February 2015, Flying Colours has played a significant role in the transformation of Virgin Australia from a low-cost-carrier to what it is today.
The Townsville-based paintshop has removed the red, white and blue Virgin Blue livery on 23 of the 56 aircraft that were repainted after the airline rebranded in May 2011.
The last of the 23 repainted aircraft to leave Flying Colours was Boeing 737-800 VH-VUL, which emerged from the hangar named Ocean Grove Beach on Monday evening sporting the Virgin Australia name in silver-grey print on the side of an all-white fuselage.
Flying Colours managing director Linda Armstrong said the Virgin contract to repaint 23 Virgin 737s allowed the company to employ 20 extra staff at its Townsville base over the past couple of years, raised its profile in the sector and provided an economic boost to North Queensland.
“The benefits of the Virgin contract to our business was that it has helped to enhance our reputation in the aviation industry, not just in Australia but overseas as well,” Armstrong told Australian Aviation on Tuesday.
“We are a prime example I think of the benefits that can be gained by small businesses when you have got larger corporations like Virgin and other operators keeping the work in the country.
“That is a really important message that we have been trying to get out during the Virgin contract and it has led to other things for our business.”
The first aircraft to be repainted by Flying Colours, VH-VUC, broke cover from the paintshop in December 2013.
Some 14 months later, Virgin’s final aircraft to be repainted, VH-VUL, was ferried to Brisbane late on Monday evening. The 737 returned to revenue service on Tuesday, operating VA 605 from Brisbane to Mackay.
“The painting of the last red aircraft into the contemporary Virgin Australia livery signals the completion of the brand repositioning,” Virgin said in a statement on Monday.
Armstrong said the Virgin aircraft was painted with what is known as the “base coat, clear coat” process, which required fewer layers of paint and produced a result that was longer lasting and therefore helped reduce maintenance.
“All the logos, all the livery, all the safety placards actually goes on the white base coat and the last thing to be applied is the clear coat which gives everything underneath protection from the elements,” Armstrong said.
“It helps reduce logos peeling or delaminating and coming off and that is a constant maintenance task for many of the airlines.”
Armstrong said Virgin was the first client Flying Colours had painted aircraft for using the “base coast, clear coat” method.
“Base coat, clear coat had been used overseas for many years but there wasn’t anyone in Australia doing it,” Armstrong said.
“So we made the recommendation to Virgin that if they did move over to the base coat, clear coat paint system that will enable us to reduce the turnaround time by at least two or three days.”
The 11-day process for each aircraft required 1,200 man hours, 18 painters and 260 litres of paint and Armstrong said the turnaround time was non-negotiable, given the disruption it would cause the airline’s schedule should an aircraft be unavailable at short notice.
“There is no such thing as a delay,” Armstrong said. “It is simply not allowed.”
“No matter what happens during a repaint, it was our job to make sure that the aircraft was still delivered on that 11th day.”
Established in 1985, Flying Colours has also repainted civil and military aircraft for the likes of Airnorth, Qantas, Solomon Airlines, Cobham and the Australian Defence Force.
In addition to some ongoing work with Virgin, which has been a client dating back to the airline’s Virgin Blue days in 2005, Flying Colours signed a multi-year contract in June 2014 with Australian Aerospace (now Airbus Group Australia Pacific) to provide aircraft strip and painting services to 12 Royal Australian Air Force C-130J aircraft.
Each C-130J would take 16 days to complete, with the first aircraft due to enter the paintshop in April 2015 according to the Defence Industries Queensland website.
The company was also expected to announce an international airline as its newest client within the next few weeks.
“We’ve still got loads of aircraft to paint,” Armstrong said.
“We’ve got a really good order book for the next two years.”