The Aesthetics of Collision Avoidance

By Scott Spangler on January 29th, 2018

belowWhen it came time for Dennis Hutchinson to paint the Davis DA-2 he’d restored, he picked red and white with gold and blue accents, “because I like them and think they go well together.”

Aesthetics had little do with how he arranged those colors on the airframe. Collision avoidance was top of mind: “As small as the Davis is, I wanted it to be as visible as possible in flight, to pop out of the background, not blend in,” said Hutchinson, who’s based at the Indianapolis Regional Airport (MQJ) in Greenfield, Indiana.

Starting in gliders, Hutchinson has been a pilot for half a century. When Leeon Davis flew his prototype DA-2, with its 19-foot-3 wingspan and 17-foot-10 fuselage, in 1966, Hutchinson was two years away from soloing a glider, at age 14, after his 13th flight. He got his private at 15, before he was eligible for a driver’s license.

above“Most sailplanes are painted white, to protect their composite structures,” he said. “What I’d observed from an early age was that sailplanes with even a small amount of darker, contrasting paint on the nose and wingtips were much easier to spot in flight that those with an all white finish.”

That’s why  the tips of the Davis’s constant-chord wing and V-tail are red, because they contrast with the white inboard sections. The upper fuselage is white because it stands out against the darker earth when viewed from above, just as the red on the lower fuselage does against the sky when seen from below.

Going beyond this aesthetic contribution to collision avoidance, Hutchinson installed an AeroLED package of position/navigation/strobe lights on the wingtips and tail cone. “They are interconnected and flash simultaneously, to great effect.”

Davis DA-2The landing and taxi lights are mounted in each wing, and they are capable of wig-wag mode. “They are not interconnected with the strobes, so they flash at a different rate,” he said. “Since all the lights are LEDs, the power they draw is minimal, and I highly value the extra visibility.”

Hutchinson said the combination of his collision avoidance paint scheme and lights is working, because when he arrives at a new airport, right after asking what kind of plane he’s flying (His initial answer? “It’s a freeze-dried Bonanza.”) pilots “tell me that the plane is lit up like a Christmas tree.” – Scott Spangler, Editor

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One Response to “The Aesthetics of Collision Avoidance”

  1. Nick Libby Says:

    How did he get his private pilot certificate at 15 years of age? It’s been 17 since before I got mine in 1968…

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