A common method for aircraft paint stripping and maintenance is abrasive blasting. Abrasive blasting supplies are sprayed through a pressurized nozzle onto the surface. This will effectively remove rust and other coatings to polish and clean.
There is no question that abrasive blasting is an efficient way to remove paint from an airplane or to clean up the exterior. However, the key is to choose the right abrasive blasting supplies. To choose the proper materials, you must consider the surface that you will be blasting as well as the reason for blasting it.
Softer is Better
For aviation applications, blasting experts recommend that you use abrasive blasting supplies that are on the softer side. Some examples of this type of material would be corn cobs or crushed walnut shells. Another option that is gaining popularity in the blasting community is plastic beads, which are ideal for aviation purposes.
Harsher abrasives such as garnet or aluminum oxide can affect the surface that is being blasted. With an aircraft, the area being blasted is most likely aluminum. While a harder abrasive will remove the layers of rust, paint, etc. more efficiently, the underlying surface may become textured or warped as a result.
When you use a softer blasting media, the pressure that is applied to the surface will not be as high. Therefore, the media will not be as aggressive when it hits the surface, leaving the underlying surface intact.
The downside to using softer abrasive blasting supplies is that the process is not likely to go very quickly. While using a harder abrasive would get the job done a lot faster, the surface will be in much better shape if you use softer media.