For aircraft painting specialist Eirtech Aviation, the goal is to eliminate the use of chromate-based paints and pre-treatment solvents. Chromate is a known carcinogen. But getting rid of it altogether currently comes down to a paperwork issue.
Andrew Richardson, head of marketing and sales for the Shannon, Ireland-headquartered company with multiple locations in Europe, explains that the problem rests with the OEMs, which have not updated their documentation to approve the use of chromate-free coatings.
“This is a great concern to us, since we are trying to comply with Reach (Regulation on Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals) legislation in Europe,” he says.
As Richardson explains, during the 1990s, a highly corrosion-resistant decorative coating specification for MROs, known as AMS 3095A, was drawn up by a group of European airlines, along with Boeing and Airbus. At the time, that meant using chromate products. But over the past five to six years, chromate-free paint pretreatment products, and top coatings, meeting AMS 3095A specs, have become available. “Still, the documentation authorizing the use of chromate-free paint and pretreatment products has yet to be released by the OEMs,” he states.
Although some airlines are specifying the new coatings, a large number continue to reference the current OEM paperwork for repainting. “As vendors, we have to comply with their requests,” stresses Richardson.
Eirtech is working with paint manufacturers to see how—together—they can convince aircraft OEMs to approve the newly developed, less harmful paint product technologies, and update their documentation. “Until that happens, Eirtech is using paint systems products with the least amount of chromates,” Richardson says.
A version of this article appears in the December 1/8 issue of Aviation Week & Space Technology.