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Why Are the New Heritage TWA, AirCal, And RenoAir Liveries Gray? We Asked American Airlines.


BONUS: 26 Photos of American Airlines heritage fleet (photos below the article)

Back in late 2014, American Airlines announced that they would be painting three 737-800s in the colors of TWA, RenoAir, and AirCal.  Avgeeks everywhere rejoiced that the famous tails from three departed airlines would soon return to the skies.

Throughout 2015, American Airlines actually unveiled four unique heritage liveries honoring the four major acquisitions by the company over the years.  This included 737-800s from TWA, RenoAir, and AirCal.  A fourth Airbus A321 was painted in factory fresh US Airways colors with American titles to represent the heritage plane of US Airways for the ‘new’ American Airlines.

The TWA, RenoAir, and AirCal airplanes were met with excitement but also some criticism.  All three aircraft had a primary gray (mica) color instead of the white background seen on the schemes they were meant to represent.  The color of the jets were a disappointment to many avgeek purists who had hoped for completely accurate paint schemes.  Avgeekery reached out to American Airlines for comment.  We asked the question, “why were the heritage liveries gray instead of white?” American responded to us with the following comments.

The base color for the TWA, Reno Air and AirCal aircraft sometimes have a grayer look because the current American Airlines mica system was used instead of the white used in some liveries in the past. The mica flecks within the three-coat system can look slightly grayer under overcast skies, but in sunlight it puts off a brilliant reflection that can appear white.

There was an important, practical consideration for this. Using the same paint means it will still match when we do repairs and body panel swaps. Some items that are replaced frequently, such as radomes and cargo doors, would be mismatched if the plane were a base white, and the spare was the same color as the rest of the American Airlines livery. Our heritage planes would then look patchy due to  the different colors, or they would have to come out of service more often for re-painting. Using the same base color system means these heritage planes will spend more time where they belong – out flying, where everyone can see them.

The logic behind this move makes sense.  There is nothing uglier than a mismatched nose or panel on a beautiful aircraft. As a follow up, we wanted to find out if the previous Heritage Liveries of Piedmont, PSA, Allegheny, and America West Airlines would be painted in mica as well as American finished repainting the US Airways fleet to the ‘new’ American scheme.  American responded with:

Not at this time.

Based on the logic of American’s response, we wouldn’t be surprised if American’s other heritage aircraft eventually are painted in a mica scheme one day.

View the American Airlines Heritage Livery Fleet

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