Are there Safer Colors for Airplanes to Help See & Avoid?

I am considering purchasing a new SR-22 and safety concerns are paramount, which is main driver for this aircraft choice (even after reading all the negative BS about Cirrus aircraft, I am convinced it is among the safest in the sky).

In considering color choices, I was wondering if certain colors can make a difference to assist other aircraft see and avoid my plane. ADS-B compliance is five years away, and of course even then these principles don’t go away. I would be most interested in hearing from people with knowledge from any reputable sources or studies, especially from the AOPA or FAA. In thinking about this myself, it occurred to me that the answer might be counter-intuitive, and it would be pointless to guess about this. Thanks!

Pointless to worry over. At any distance to worry about you WILL see it!

Can you spot the plane here (they all look whitish/grey to me, until they are VERY close)?

And here?


While pilots worry a lot about mid air collisions, they are rare events and only represent a few fatalities per year. Of course, if you’re one of the fatalities then the fact it is rare is of little solace.

I know of no studies about the color of airplanes and their visibility in the air. I do know from personal experience that in winter it can be extremely difficult to see a white aircraft over snow, while in summer a white aircraft shows up well over green terrain. What I find most useful in looking for aircraft is to pick up something that is moving in my visual field. The downside of that technique is that an aircraft on a collision course will show no apparent movement!

I do know that bright orange is used by many Coast Guard aircraft to improve their visibility but whether that was something based on studies or intuition I have no idea.

If you want to be visible, get lots of flashing strobes and perhaps a pulsating landing light and keep them on all the time.

After more than 2500 hr flying I have to say that I don’t think color makes ANY difference for see-and-avoid.

One might ponder color choice somewhat from the point of view of SAR searching visually for your plane if it goes down somewhere where there’s not an airport. On the other hand in most or all such circumstances there should be a large, brightly colored airframe parachute to attract attention!

Another thing to consider is that a darker color (e.g., silver, gold or other) on the flying surfaces facilitates more rapid melting of frost on a cold morning.

Actually color makes a difference to our fellow feathered aviators . They have a better visual capability, but what that ability is, is species dependent.
Look for USA. NWRC Bird Research And if it is good for the goose …
I remember United’s old colors were the worst
Now if you break down the NMAC’s database (Near miss transport). United again falls to the more likely and southwest rises to least likely

Here is a 1959 study. Hope you’re into fluorescent red or orange!

I agree with Rob, though. About the last thing in the list of things to worry about is a mid-air. With a good scan and with the TCAD and ATC assistance, not to mention the “big sky” aspect, it is extremely unlikely. You, the pilot, can be far more effective in mitigating the risk than painting your airplane orange.

Mine has been getting more attention than any other plane on the ramp, so the answer must be blue and silver. :D

I was thinking more Southwest Shamu. Plane & pelagic specie near misses are pretty astronomically low.

cirrus colored.jpg

YELLOW with thick accent lines in black or dark color for contrast. This comes from many years of flying ( and trying to see ) RC airplanes.


Well, since that time, the Navy, at least, has pretty much stuck with these kind of color schemes for its training planes:

I’ve casually chatted with Ross about someday doing my bird this way, but with the “F” tail code and markings for the Training Wing in Pensacola, my “home” Training Wing and where I earned my wings. Downside is that “unique” color schemes can sometimes have a penalty price when the time comes to sell. But hey, who wouldn’t want a “T-53B”?[H]

Be safe and have fun,