Photo by Phil Weston
Kozloff, a World War II Navy aviator from Santa Paula, California,
is 85 years young and, from what he hears, is one of only 300 or
so active pilots in the United States of that age. Since the
population of the United States is about 300 million, that makes
Kozloff a true one-in-a-million pilot.
July 29, 2009 - Oshkosh, Wisconsin - Not
long ago Alex Kozloff read an article about new vinyl appliqué
technologies for creating graphic designs on airplanes. He was looking to
put the final finish on the Pulsar he had been flying in a primer coat for
four years, and the article prompted an idea.
“I contacted [the writer], and he gave me
the name of an outfit that did the work,” Kozloff said. “The shop said
they did sides of airplanes and tails, so I asked has anyone wrapped a
“He replied, ‘No, oh no, nobody’s ever
Kozloff’s idea: wrap the entire Pulsar in
vinyl, avoiding the need to apply a finish coat of traditional paints.
“So, being an EAA member, I thought I would
be the first one, at least to my knowledge, to completely vinyl-wrap an
airplane,” he said.
Unless one examines the plane very closely,
the sleek taildragger appears to have an intricate, hand-painted and
airbrushed graphic scheme, a scheme that Kozloff estimated would have cost
$25,000 to $30,000 to apply.
Instead, the yellow, white, black, and gray
design honoring his pet cockatoo, Crystal, came out of an industrial color
One significant challenge was finding someone
to actually take on the job once he found it impractical to do it himself.
Full-wrap technology has been used on land
vehicles for some time now.
“There are a number of companies
specializing in auto wrap, especially in the Los Angeles area,” Kozloff
said. “So I contacted four. Only one expressed any interest in working
His first desire was to simply wrap the
airplane in a single color. But the firm quickly convinced him that he
could do so much more.
Ultimately the cockatoo design, which appears
on the bottom of the airplane and the top, developed as Kozloff
worked with the firm’s graphic designer.
The material covering the plane consists of a
number of layers, including the vinyl base, the color and design, and a
laminated clear protective coat on the top. Heat-activated adhesive
permanently bonds the material to the plane’s composite skin.
Kozloff learned during the project, however,
that all the same prep work— filling, sanding, and priming activities
necessary before painting a plane— must still be completed before
applying the material.
And the vinyl covering is no more forgiving of
shortcuts than traditional paints. Overall the wrap job cost about $6,000,
substantially less than the hand painting of a similar design. It did add
15 pounds to the weight of the airframe.
Kozloff and his plane are here at EAA
AirVenture Oshkosh 2009 all week. He plans to be available by the plane
each day at around 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. to answer questions. It is located
just east of Homebuilders Headquarters.
Kozloff is obviously extremely pleased with
the result. “This Pulsar is just a beautiful airplane,” he said. “But
like a beautiful woman, if you dress it to the nines, it just becomes
“Of course, since this is an emerging
technology, I fully expected to see two other [vinyl-wrapped] airplanes
But Kozloff has not yet seen any other
examples here, so the Pulsar may well be the only flying example of the
technology. Since there are not a million airplanes in the worldwide
fleet, his plane might not be exactly one in a million, but it is, for now
anyway, certainly one-of-a-kind, nonetheless.
Not so, though, for the pilot.