Hill Aerospace Museum planes get new paint

HILL AIR FORCE BASE — There aren’t any Rembrandts or van Goghs, but Hill Air Force Base’s museum is getting some impressive new paintings to add to its collection.

Contracted painting crews are in the beginning stages of a nearly month-long process to repaint five large aircraft and two missiles that are displayed prominently just outside the front doors of the Hill Aerospace Museum.

A B-52G Stratofortress, B-29 Superfortress, B-1B Lancer, C-54 Skymaster and C-47 Skytrain are among the aircraft being repainted; the missiles getting a freshening up are a CIM-10A Bomarc and a XSM-62A Snark. The aircraft and missiles are among the first exhibits visitors see as they approach the museum or as they drive by it on Interstate 15.

Museum curator Justin Hall said each plane is accompanied by a technical order, which is essentially a set of clear and concise instructions that dictates everything from the coloring of markings on a particular plane, to where insignias can be placed on the aircraft.

“Different periods of time in the Air Force had different markings,” Hall said. “Different color schemes will require the markings to be in different colors. There’s a lot of detail involved and everything is very strictly defined.”

Hall said the repaint project serves two purposes: to keep the aircraft looking nice and to preserve them.

“Part of it is just the aesthetics,” Hall said. “We want the aircraft and the museum itself to look professional, but there are also preservation benefits.”

Hall said as paint wears away on aircraft and other static displays, especially those that are staged outside in the elements, corrosion and other body problems are more likely to occur.

Although not on the scale of the ongoing repainting project, Hall said, corrosion control is done regularly by museum staff. 

“It’s no shock the aircraft aren’t brand-new, coming right off the line,” he said. “People want to see the old, historical aircraft. But you obviously don’t want them completely trashed, either.”

Hall said several maintainers out of Georgia who also work for Delta Airlines are painting the museum’s planes. 

Robb Alexander, executive director of the Aerospace Heritage Foundation of Utah, said the museum received $400,000 in federal funds last year for restoration projects. Roughly a quarter of that money is being used to paint the B-29, B-52, B-1 and the Snark missile. The Aerospace Foundation appropriated funding for the C-54 and the Bomarc missile. 

Alexander said the repainting project is set to be finished by the end of this month.

The Hill Aerospace Museum averages about 180,000 visitors per year and is the largest Air Force field museum west of the Mississippi River. The museum’s collection includes nearly 100 aircraft.

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