Painting the FHC’s F-105G Thunderchief was a challenge. Beyond all the “big stuff,” like the national insignia, camouflage, serial numbers and a multitude of warnings and directions, there was another rather complex and vexing matter. In service, the plane was covered in half-inch panel location numbers. Each number, a pair of numbers actually, told the maintenance personnel where each removable panel went on the plane. These — FF stands for “Forward Fuselage” — are an example of the hundreds of codes that appear all over the plane’s skin.
Most museums are wise enough to skip this labor-intensive part of the paint process. As for us, well, we’re different. FHC staffers were able to secure factory drawings of the plane that called out each panel number. Then we acquired additional information on the modifications made to this F-105G aircraft.
The end result of the research was a prolonged session with an antique stencil cutter and oil board sheets. Then, an extensive session in the paint booth.
Cory Graff is the military aviation curator at the Flying Heritage Collection.