An Example Warbird Colour Project: Yak-3M D-FJAK (2008)

The following is a step-by-step account of the project to repaint D-FJAK during 2008. We hope that by describing the events of that time that we may highlight the capabilities, function and role of Warbird Colour in a typical Warbird re-finishing project. Please follow us....

December 2007:  The owner of D-FJAK contacted Warbird Colour. He was dissatisfied with the current appearance [see below] and enquired about the possibility of finishing the aircraft with an authentic colour scheme from the Great Patriotic War era VVS (Soviet Air Force).

January 2008:  The owner and Warbird Colour agree a contract to re-finish D-FJAK. Obviously such details a costings, paint, services and supplies are worked out, along with the scope of the project:
To re-paint D-FJAK with an authentic livery as worn by an actual Yak-3 of the Soviet Air Force of the 1941-45 period. The finish to be completed using modern aerospace lacquers of maximum quality, but exactly duplicating the original colours and appearance of the authentic specimen and in historically apropos matte finish. All suitable devices to be applied with the scheme, including stencils, national markings and other insignia.

On this basis, research was presented by Warbird Colour to the client demonstrating a number of historically accurate paint schemes on Yak-3 aircraft suitable for the D-FJAK project. Colour profiles were created by Warbird Colour showing the original Yak-3s as they appeared in service with the VVS. Photographic and other documentation was supplied with the artwork to accentuate the details of each possible scheme. Some of the original proposal artwork (at reduced size) is shown below.

At the end of the month Warbird Colour travelled with the owner to exmine D-FJAK at its hangar in Bremgarten, Germany. The aircraft was carefully inspected, and copious measurements were taken of the airframe and structure. The maintenance schedule was established, which informed a general time frame in which the aircraft must be re-painted. Face-to-face meetings with the owner facilitated many detail discussions about the job at hand, and a final choice was made regarding the scheme for D-FJAK.

The owner's choice fell to Yak-3 "White 100" of the 402 IAP.

February 2008:  With the final scheme selected, Warbird Colour got to work on many details. A full set of stencils were required for a wartime Yak-3, and no such items existed anywhere in the world at the time. Warbird Colour undertook original archival research to discover, record, and re-create authentic stencils for the Yak-3 (ca. 1944-45, manufactured at Saratov). A custom TTF font was created as well, and vinyl masks were printed to apply the stencils to D-FJAK.

A full set of painting schematics were completed for the project. These schematics showed the exact painting details and patternation of the intended scheme, the placement of all stencils and devices, the execution of all national insignia, and a comprehensive set of measurements and guides (based on airframe locations) by which to apply these. Masks for the national stars were created in full scale (1:1), as were vinyl masking materials for the nose artwork.

Physical paint samples were dispatched to our aerospace lacquer suppliers. Following optical laser scanning and laboratory work, exact replicas of the original finishes were obtained by careful co-operative work with Warbird Colour. Test samples were examined for quality and fidelity to the originals. The resulting colours were then suitably coded and codified for use with the desired range of aerospace coatings.

Historical research regarding the subject aircraft were undertaken. A summary of the unit and its history were supplied to the client, along with original period photographs. Sadly, the pilot of "White 100" could not be identified, but much other interesting information was gleaned. Full sized (A2 sheet) colour profile artwork of the subject aircraft was created for the client, both depicting the 1945 appearance of "White 100", and also the final appearance as the scheme would be executed on the actual Yak-3M D-FJAK. The various small differences in geometry and detail between the historical specimen and the Orenburg aircraft were discussed with the client, and suitable amendments were planned and agreed. Further, German national law was taken into consideration and a modified nose artwork was developed which did not portray a notably infamous and banned WW2 era symbol.

The resulting final appearance agreed for the D-FJAK project was as such:

April 2008:  With all preparations complete, Warbird Colour flew out to Bremgarten to commence work. The owner accompanied our team for the visit.

D-FJAK was hangared at Max Alpha Aviation (MeierMotors GmbH), who had completed mechanical work on the aircraft prior to our arrival. The aircraft had been left in two primary sub-assemblies (wing, fuselage), with certain other components detached from their respective groups (rudder, engine panels, canopy, etc); all was ready for painting to begin.

Warbird Colour' remit for the project was to provide on-site supervision and project management. The painting of the aircraft was to be carried out by Max Alpha in their own spraying facility (at the hangar). Work began with the complete painting of the wing, upper and lower surfaces. The colours were inspected for appearance, and the details of the application were vetted. The completed wings were removed from the painting bay to cure, and the fuselage moved in. Minor masking was undertaken to cover the removed canopy and engine panels. Then, the main fuselage was painted, both upper and lower surfaces.

The Warbird Colour team decided to mask off all of the national insignia markings ourselves, as is the customary practice on such projects. National stars were masked on the wing under surfaces (the upper surfaces on WW2 era VVS aircraft did not carry such markings), ready for spraying. Work then commenced on the engine panels, which were first sprayed with the appropriate colour, and after drying, carefully treated with the vinyl masks which had been prepared for the application of the nose artwork. This procedure was delicate and painstaking.

Once the fuselage was dry, the Warbird Colour team turned our attention to the masking of the national insignia and tactical numbers here. The white areas were masked first, and sprayed. After drying suitably, the red areas were similarly masked and sprayed.

After all of the major painting of the aircraft were completed, the machine was wheeled out of the bay, re-assembled, and all masking removed. A very thorough inspection of the surfaces was undertaken by the Warbird Colour team. Raised paint around masked edges, imperfections, blotching and other problems are strictly not permitted; none were found. Following the final surface inspection, small detail items were addressed, and the aircraft's maintenance stencils were applied by our team.

May 2008:  Some mechanical work ensued after final painting, but by May D-FJAK was rolled out at last. The project was a success-- compare the final results to the agreed artwork above.

Another brilliant and historically authentic Warbird takes to the skies...