U.S. Department of Defense


Date of this Version



Published in Materials Characterization 55 (2005) 179– 189.


The paper describes a method for metallographic preparation of artificially aged aircraft coatings. In order to better understand the in-service performance and identify degradation mechanisms of an aircraft coating, complete characterization of the microstructure is essential. This paper discusses metallographic sample preparation and subsequent microscopy techniques (light optical microscopy, scanning electron microscopy) for characterization of a standard polyurethane aircraft coating system. The preparation method has proven to produce good, consistent results on a wide range of laboratory-produced simulated environmental exposures.

The military specification coating system under study (MIL-PRF-85285C and MIL-PRF-23377G) degrades severely after accelerated weathering. Typical degradation includes deterioration of the polyurethane-based resin system in the topcoat and is observed as a visible change in the color. Increased porosity and some physical deterioration were also observed. In addition, some inorganic pigments in the primer appear to migrate into the topcoat during simulated exposure.