PPG Paint Job Keeps Spy Plane Slippery Slick

PPG employees Andrew Troller, Connie Griesemer and Rickey Shump, from left, helped with the A-12 restoration.


Say you’re restoring an A-12 Oxcart, the legendary eye-in-the-sky spy plane operated by the CIA during the height of the Cold War. It needs some high-tech aerospace coatings for the refurbishment. Who you gonna call?

It only took one call, and a local one at that, to PPG Plant Manager Tom Meyer, according to the folks at Huntsville’s U.S. Space & Rocket Center, where the A-12 was awaiting its new livery. Meyer promptly arranged for PPG to donate military aerospace coatings to repaint the venerable Oxcart.

“PPG has a great relationship with the staff at USSRC, and we are honored to participate in the preservation of this historic aircraft, ” Meyer says. “PPG has donated coatings for several aircraft-restoration projects. We appreciate being able to contribute our aerospace expertise and resources.”

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The spy plane’s original livery, or overall insignia of color and graphics, was nondescript, given its undercover mission. PPG Global Segment Manager Duane Utter, a military aerospace coatings expert, worked with the Space & Rocket Center’s curator to give the plane a high-gloss finish that would help it stay fresh in its new outdoor home. PPG donated nearly 90 gallons of a high-gloss military topcoat in midnight for the livery and four additional colors for markings. The company also contributed 30 gallons of military epoxy primer.

“We couldn’t have a better donor, advisor or friend than PPG, ” said Holly Ralston, executive director, U.S. Space & Rocket Center Education Foundation. “Taking care of artifacts as large as the A-12 Oxcart is a tall order, but PPG’s people and paint are consistently up for the challenge here at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center.”

The A-12 program had its first flight on April 30, 1962. The last mission was in May 1968. Though short-lived, the A-12 pioneered new stealth, speed and altitude capabilities. It reached a top speed above Mach 3 and an altitude of 90, 000 feet. Only 12 of the aircraft and one trainer were produced, with seven aircraft and the trainer still in existence.

The A-12 Oxcart is on loan from the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.

Text by Dave Helms

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