Model Airliner Gray, Light Gull 36440, BAC 707, cockpit colors too!

One of the searches that brings people to my blog is some combination of “Gull Gray” “36440” and “Paint Code”. This can be for airliner models, US Navy planes or who knows what else. Here’s what I do know:

The US Navy once used a lot of a color called “Light Gull Gray”, but defined in Federal Standard 595 (plain, a or b) as “36440” for flat,”26440″ semi gloss, “16440” gloss. In the 1950s and 60s this was the standard color for the upper surface of USN and USMC military planes, with shiny white on the underneath. White was removed from fighters in the 1970s when pilots realized that the different top and bottom colors would give-away what was the top of the plane, thus what ‘up’ was for the pilot, in a dog-fight. So the white/gull gray scheme was replaced with overall 36440. (Later, overall 36440 was replaced by the “Tactical Paint Scheme”, composed of 36495 or 36375 underside, 36320 topside, with often with 35237 around the cockpit and wing leading edges. The “TPS” colors remind me of storm clouds, same idea as 36440, different weather.

I really like 36440, because it seems to precisely capture the color of clouds in sunshine- there’s a definite warmth to it. Surprisingly poetic, but if you want to blend into clouds, you need to be cloud colored. (Unless you choose the green balloon and want to look like part of the tree- apologies to A. A. Milne, Christopher Robin, Pooh and the bees…)

Prior to 1942, the US Navy used a light gray overall, briefly, or for the UNDERSIDE of airplanes- the SBD, TBD, F4F-3, F2B-3, etc. There’s an Army/Navy (A/N) number for the USN Light Gray, but the A/N USN Light Gray and 36440 are indistinguishable by me. The formula may be different, or the same, certainly the purpose was the same.

Lots of airliner model instructions (Hasegawa, Minicraft, Revell) call out “(Light) Gull Gray” or “FS 36440″ for the light gray frequently found on wings and horizontal stabilizers, to protect the highly stressed aluminum skin between the front and rear spars- strong in compression on the top, strong in tension on the bottom. The alloys that are useful for these parts are not naturally corrosion resistant, and the 3 dimensional shaping of the parts makes “Alclad” unsuitable. The same gray is frequently found on the wing/fuselage fairing, jet engine fan cowlings, and other composite (fiberglass or carbon fiber) pieces.

I find *6440 too dense and too warm. Boeing do offer more than a dozen colors for gray and another more than a dozen for white, to their customers, but there is a definite, ‘typical’, gray that’s about the same tonal value as bare aluminum that Boeing, McDonnell Douglas, Lockheed, Airbus, etc all use or used, by default. At Boeing it’s called “Boeing Aircraft Company Gray” and has the stock number “707″. Sometimes this is rendered, “BAC 707 Gray”, or “BAC #707 Gray”, but it’s not “707″ gray- the number is coincidence. “BAC 706” is Boeing’s standard Black, color, “BAC 705″ is another Gray, etc.

Sherwin-Williams, for example offer three pre-mixed BAC colors in their Jet Glo range of multipart paints:

” CM0570596 Jet Glo Gray BAC 707
CM0570726 Jet Glo White 7067
CM0570765 Jet Glo White BAC 733″

Do a web search for “BAC 70*” or “BAC 706” or “BAC 708 and you find sites like which notes that their flight deck avionics are available in the following colors,

“Available Colors
Designed to integrate within your flightdeck

• Black per FED-STD-595 #37038
• Black per Boeing BAC-706

• Medium Brown per Boeing BAC-8328

• Gray per Boeing BAC-703
• Gray per Boeing BAC-705
• Gray per FED-STD-595 #36118
• Gray per FED-STD-595 #36076
• Gray per FED-STD-595 #36176
• Gray per FED-STD-595 #36492
• Gray per FED-STD-595 #36173
• Gray per FED-STD-595 #36320
• Gray per FED-STD-595 #36231

• Blue/Gray per FED-STD-595 #35164
• Blue per FED-STD-595 #35164”

That’s a nice list of potential cockpit colors for anyone who is interested in cockpits…

Xtracolor make pre-mixed, oil based, BAC 707 Gray for model builders, which is a spot-on match. Boeing seem to have slightly changed the color in the last decade or so, and so Xtracolor offer now two different versions. (Add Xtracolor part numbers and Hannant’s web address…) Hannant’s in the UK own Xtracolor, and stock the paint. Airline Hobby Supply carry it in the USA, and perhaps others do too. (more web addresses) There are said to be Xtra Acrylics available as well but I know little about them. (ought to look!)

I recently decided to try mixing something similar using the widely available Testor’s Acryl, and found 3 parts FS (f) 36495 Light Gray (Testors 1/2 oz. #4765) and 4 parts Flat White (f) FS37875 (Testors 1/2 oz. #4769) were pretty good. Its far, far, lighter than FS 36440 or Light Gull Gray, but its a pretty good match to what you see on the wings of DC-9s, 737s, A-320s, etc. Your milage may vary, of course. I’ve used the 3:4 mix of FS 36495 and white for models of Boeing 777-200s, an MD-82 and an Airbus A340 and I find it quite convincing. Its a pretty good match for Xtracolor’s BAC 707 too, which is re-assuring. You have to gloss it up to taste with Future floor wax or the gloss of your choice after it dries, but this is my prefered method anyway.

Check out:

Its a complete list of 595 color numbers with samples for your screen- not definitive (only the large 3 X 5″ cards embody the standard), but a great place to start.

Along with Sherwin Williams, a web search for “BAC 707” will bring up various suppliers of full-size airplane paints- duPont for example, and you can buy a gallon of the real thing for something over $100 if that suits you… yow!

Some authorities recomend FS 16515 Canadian Voodoo Gray (aka F101 Voodoo paint) as the modeler’s best match for BAC 707 but I don’t find it that much superior to FS 16440/26440/36440 (Light) Gull Gray. The older, oil-based, Testors Model Master colors include an FS 16515 The label on the bottle no longer says “16515” but it once did- a minor mystery. 515 is still too dark, too rich, IMHO. You’ll note that the higher the last three digits, generally, the lighter the FS color is. So 515 ought to be lighter than 440 and it is, and perhaps lighter than 495 as well, but none are light enough to pass for BAC 707. That’s why the I add ‘795 (or ‘975!) flat white. Perhaps 16515 is a better starting point, but without a water based version, its mostly theory to me.

Does anyone else have experience in mixing or matching BAC 707?

Do you know what Airbus call their aluminum-tone light gray?

Do you know what McDonnell-Douglas (or just plain Douglas) called their aluminum-tone light gray?

Do you know what Lockheed called theirs?

Drop me a line or comment here!

9 responses to “Model Airliner Gray, Light Gull 36440, BAC 707, cockpit colors too!

  1. Jan K. Lorenzen

    Beleive it or not, Airbus uses BAC707 grey as the default light grey for the wings, and have used BAC7067 white for many generic white fuselages. The newer ones use BAC70846 white. Strange but true.

  2. Do you have any recommendations for the Dark Blue Color that is found on U.S. Airways Aircraft? I’ve heard many different colors, Navy blue, Dark Blue, Royal Blue, but I haven’t found a model paint that is close yet. I bought the minicraft model 737-400 and the instructions just say “Dark Blue (match to decal)”…What the heck!

    • Hi Luke,
      Good question, color matching is a constant challenge for me, I’m just not very good at it. So I use the most obvious and time consuming method. Find or obtain a scrap piece of plastic about as big as your hand. A take-out food container, coffee cup lid, wing or something else flat from a kit you aren’t going to build, a software update CD or DVD you don’t intend to use, etc. Take out the colors in your paint collection which are approximately right. I paint the lids of my jars with the contents, so I can see the actual color cheaply and easily. Stir the paint thoroughly, and then stir another minute after that. Paint a 1″ / 2.5cm square, or bigger, of each of those colors, around the edge of the piece of plastic. Paint like you would for real – a thin coat brushed out for minimum brush marks, etc. NOT one-coat-coverage. Let it dry. Apply a second coat, same deal. Depending on the color and paint brand, you might stop at 2 or 3, or if its white using Polly scale, you might need 7 coats. You need what it takes. When your sampler is completely coated with a color you can duplicate by stirring and applying thin coats, compare the colors to the decal. Got a match? If yes, keep the sampler somewhere, after marking which paint is which spot on it, and pat yourself on the back.
      If no matches, exactly, you’ll need to mix. Obvious things to mix with a color are white (for a “tint”) or black (for a “tone”) or gray (for a tint AND tone). The other obvious thing is another color. I start with whatever I’ve got that is closest, but I’ve found the best results from mixing that with White, Black, Red, Blue or Yellow. Mostly because using those I usually get something like what I expect. Yellow with any blue makes green. With any red makes orange. With any orange, makes yellow orange. With any green makes yellow-green. I was mixing for a KLM blue once and I realized what I had was quite blue but the KLM color of the era I was mixing for seemed to be a little green. I could have added greens (I’ve got about 100 different green colors…) or even greenish blues, but I chose to add yellow, just a tiny bit,
      To find proportions, mix equivalent sizes (brush full, drop, brushtip, etc.) in ratios like 1:1, 2:1, 3:1, 3:2, 4:1, 3:4, 5:1, 5:2, 5:3 (CLOSE TO 2/3), etc. and brush the trial versions out just like you did with the first set of samples. So, yes, you’ll have to mix the trial version in a seal-able container. Remember to stir. If you use something consistent, a syringe with volume markings, a long dropper filled to a fixed point, a straw or coffee stirrer, souvenir spoon or demitasse or dessert spoon…

  3. I used Insignia Blue for US Airways topside color on my 737 model, looked fine to me. I did work for them back in late 1990s at BGM.

  4. You will find that the direct FS equivalent for BAC707 grey is FS16515. It is also known as Canadian Voodoo Grey in the Testors range. So no mixing required if you can source Testors paint.

    • Hi Ray,
      You put the case clearly. I don’t find the paint persuasive, too dark IMHO, though lighter than 36440, But that’s just me. I’m prompted to try using my FS-595 set and Pantone chips to make my case more objectively. And if 16515 works for you, by all means use it!

  5. Since FS16515 Canadian Voodoo Grey is discontinued I set out to resolve this dilemma once and for all. Go down to Home Depot and buy whatever size you need of “Eon N370-2”. I have 1 qt of high gloss acrylic interior diluted with distilled water. I’m extremely happy with the color match and I use it religiously on all my models. It cost me $14 for practically a lifetime supply.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s