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AkzoNobel Helps Southwest Airlines Celebrate Hawaiian Culture with Imua One


The following post is guest written by Christopher Schroh from AkzoNobel, a company that provided the coatings for the Imua One aircraft.





There are special liveries, and there are liveries that are special—to an airline and the People it serves.


So, when Southwest Airlines wanted to celebrate the fourth anniversary of serving the Hawaiian Islands, it wanted to create a unique design that captured the Hawaiian cultural concept of Imua, which means forward, and the strength, courage, and spirit of the islands’ People.


For the design of Imua One, Southwest partnered with Oahu-based Osaki Creative Group and received guidance from Herman Piikea Clark, the Kanaka Maoli/indigenous Hawaiian artist, designer, and researcher. The design, on a Southwest Boeing 737 MAX 8, features a range of stunning colors, including bold blues, warm reds, and a sunrise yellow, with gradients and vignettes to symbolize the transition from night to day and reflect the history of Pacific travel using the sun, the moon, and stars to navigate.


To bring its designs to life, the airline turned to AkzoNobel for the quality of its aerospace coatings and the expertise of its Technical Services Team.


The aircraft took 17 days to complete from a Team of up to ten painters who worked in shifts in Spokane. The design used more than 90 gallons of paint comprising 16 different colors.


First, the aircraft was painted black all over, and a coat of mica was applied. A clear coat set the mica in place and was then sanded to give greater adhesion for the special colors to follow. Pre-mask stencils, expertly crafted by Solo Graphix, were applied, with only slight adjustments required. The ease with which the stencils could be used, combined with the speed of the paint material set-up, enabled the project to be completed two days ahead of schedule.


After the front design (pre-masking) was applied over the black, it was scuffed, and the blue and purple were added, along with a further coat of mica. The design was sealed with a clear coat. The skilled paint Team expertly handled the challenge of blending the orange of the after-section design to deliver the desired effect. For the middle section, the design blends (red to orange and purple to red) were completed at the same time. Both the after-section and the mid-section designs also featured a further coat of mica sealed with a clear coat.


With the design work completed, the airplane was unmasked, scuffed down, blown off for debris, and tacked, and then three coats of clear were applied. The tail was worked on, and one final clear finish was applied. The paint went on with ease throughout the program, and no reworking was required.


Mike Suhara with AkzoNobel Aerospace Coatings says the Team’s expertise was crucial to the project's success: “The most challenging part of the project was choosing a mica that would work with the different basecoats,” he explains. “We also had to develop five basecoat colors in less than our standard time, as well as an additional color created on the spot during the Customer visit. This took a huge effort from the color development team in Troy, Michigan.”


Happily, the extra effort involved was worth it. Mike says that in the light of day, the airplane takes on a life of its own: “The design flows, and the colors make it work so well,” he continues. It is amazing to see, and once you learn the meaning of the symbols and what they mean to the People of Hawaii, it means something special to all of us.”


As Bob Jordan, President and CEO of Southwest, confirmed: “When we decide to paint an airplane, it’s not only a symbol of gratitude but also of a promise we’ve made.”