Yellow leading edges ?

Discussion in 'Finishing Techniques' started by ebonheart_2, Nov 9, 2005.

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  1. Nov 9, 2005 #1

    ebonheart_2

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    Howdy, I am wondering why a lot of WW2 aircraft had yellow leading edges on their wings... most of our (American) aircraft had flat black leading edges on everything... which I think would be to reduce the glare.

    Was the Yellow intended to make them stand out or something? :confused:
     
  2. Nov 9, 2005 #2

    Rhino

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    That was usually trainers, to increase the visibility for collision avoidance, etc. Some combat aircraft also used colors as unit markings, such as the Tuskeegee Airmen being called the Red Tails due to the red markings on their tail assemblies. Colors by themselves don't really increase or decrease glare as much as the type of finish does, i.e. gloss vs. flat finish. Also, the bright colors were usually used on a small enough area that it really didn't make much difference as far as their visibility is concerned. Fighters were more likely to use such bright colors and they often were anxious to attract "prey", so many probably didn't mind very much. Bombers in formation were also very easy to spot from a distance long before color would become much of a factor, so it didn't really matter much for them, unless they flew low level where the colors were far more likely to stand out. They also discovered during the war that gloss finishes actually reduced visibility at night, which was a big surprise to them at that time. In short, it didn't really have as much effect on their visibility as many might think, with the exception of low level flight.
     
  3. Nov 9, 2005 #3

    ebonheart_2

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    Hmmmm.... So do you think these are like this just to maybe help visibility during formation flying or something? I dought their all trainers. :p: I've seen some German aircraft that had the same... I was just thinking there had to be some reason both sides of the war painted sections of their leading edges bright yellow. :confused:
     

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  4. Nov 9, 2005 #4

    ebonheart_2

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    A Zero...
     

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  5. Nov 9, 2005 #5

    ebonheart_2

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    Typhoon...
     

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  6. Nov 9, 2005 #6

    BD5builder

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    Only thing i can think of is that maybe they were painted that way, so they'd have an idea of where the wingtips were. Cause i could possibly see camoflage'd wings an such dissappearing during some situations, and possibly the bright yellow leading edge's was to give a break in that so you could tell where it was, for low level straffing or.....
     
  7. Nov 9, 2005 #7

    ebonheart_2

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    Ahh, that makes since... Why do you think the leading edges of... say... the C-47 were flat black? The tail serfaces were the same.

    You can kinda tell in this picture.
     

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  8. Nov 9, 2005 #8

    BD5builder

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    Only thing i can think of is b/c they stay up high, to where the only thing they really have to worry about hitting is the plane beside them, but since they plane there worried about is relatively close to there altitude the high visibility paint isn't needed (which the lack of also keeps enemy aicraft above them from seeing them easier) compared to a fighter aircraft which could be yanking and banking pretty hard down low close to the ground, and the yellow gives them the depth perception needed for clearance between obstacles.
     
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2005
  9. Nov 10, 2005 #9

    StRaNgEdAyS

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    That's a different school of thought to the fighter and transport tactics I've learned.
    With fighters, the bank and yank technique is just one method and is really only showing preference with post 1945 jet fighters. When flying fighters, (the old prop types) what was most important was to maintain your airspeed at all costs. To lose your energy (airspeed) was to die.
    The best way of accomplishing this was to use what was termed the boom and zoom method, starting with altitude, dive down on your target, shoot (the boom) and then climb away (the zoom). Dogfighting often started with the aircraft diving and climbing with each other, constantly trading altitude and airspeed trying to get the energy advantage, he with the best energy advantage often finished up beig able to stay higher, drawing the other up until they stalled out (this was known as a rope) and then dived down on them, finishing them off. Should they both run out of sufficient energy to continue the climb/dive battle, then would start the turnfighing (the bank and yank) often popping a notch or two of flap to help maintain enough lift to turn inside the other plane and bring guns to bear.
    The transport aircraft on the other hand would occasionally go high, if they had sufficient air cover to protect them, but more often they would stay on the deck, hugging the trees or skimming just above wave top level to mask their presence. It's much easier to spot a high slow transport than a low one.
    As to why some painted their leading edges yellow or black is anybodies guess... I have no idea.
     
  10. Nov 10, 2005 #10

    ebonheart_2

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    Hmmm... well, I bet the yellow would help if you were scud running at 400Mph. :gig: ... the flat black like on the C-47 wouldnt help them see ice any better would it? Come to think of it... I saw a GA aircraft with black leading edges as well. :confused:

    You can barely see it on this Piper Chietain...
     

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  11. Nov 10, 2005 #11

    Falco Rob

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    I think you'll find that's the de-ice boots.
     
  12. Nov 10, 2005 #12

    BD5builder

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    Ditto
     
  13. Nov 10, 2005 #13

    Rhino

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    Sounds perfectly reasonable.

    They weren't. I said usually trainers. Plenty of others had it too, as I mentioned. All combat aircraft paint jobs are a compromise of sorts, a tradeoff of varying degrees between the advantages of visibility and invisibility. There are advantages to both, and the ratio of those would undoubtedly change with the mission of the aircraft. Your pictures seem to indicate that the yellow paint was a more common practice among the smaller aircraft, which seems to bear out the differences in need for visibility for different missions. BD5builder may very well have hit the nail on the head with the remark about formation flying. Visibility for formation flying would seem to be more of an issue for smaller aircraft, since the larger aircraft would be easier to see without yellow paint. Have you noticed a preference for yellow paint on aircarft that fly over water more often, such as naval aircraft? Maybe the yellow gives an added advantage over water. That's just a guess on my part though.
     
  14. Nov 10, 2005 #14

    Rhino

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    There's a discussion of the Japanese use of yellow here, but it's blocked here at work so I can't read it.

    I haven't been able to find anything that specifically addresses why they used the yellow leading edges, but the context of every reference I find seems to indicate they were for identification and recognition.
     
  15. Nov 10, 2005 #15

    StRaNgEdAyS

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    From what it says on that site, and their arguments are pretty convincing, even a sort of consensus was reached that the markings were an IFF for use particularly in head on confrontations where confusion might arise between differing aircraft types.
     
  16. Nov 10, 2005 #16

    ebonheart_2

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    I'm glad somebody found something about in google. I wonder if there was a rule about it or something... because the British, Germans, and Japaneese just happen to have had the same idea. I didnt know the US ever used them, and I dont think the Russians ever did either. It appears to only be on fighters, not dive bombers or bombers, etc...

    Since most of the aircraft that had the yellow leading edges, had the yellow in the same wing sections... I dont think that would help you identify the aircraft any better (from straight ahead), but you'd probably see it better... I wouldnt want to run into somebody like that either... even if they were my 'worst enemy.'
     
  17. Nov 10, 2005 #17

    StRaNgEdAyS

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    I take no credit for finding the site, I just read it. ;)
    I do believe that in areas of possible confusion differing colours were used. There are incidences where the IJAAF used red or orange markings instead of the yellow to differentiate the planes. It is also mentioned that others may have done the same. I've not seen any examples of German aircraft with the yellow (or any other outstanding colour) on their leading edges yet but as I am always looking around for examples (or authentic style replicas) of WWII aircraft, I'll keep it in mind.
     
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2005
  18. Jan 19, 2006 #18

    wsimpso1

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    On the C-47, and on a lot of other aircraft, they black leading edges are de-icing boots. Yes, they had de-ice on the pre-war transports.

    The biggest thing that matters for seeing something or making it hard to see is contrast. If the brightness of two things is about the same, it is hard to notice it. Light cotton jacket, dark cotton jacket, the driver rolling down a dark road will see the pedestrian about the same place (really close). Put on a jacket and shoes with retroreflective material, and you will see the pedestrian several times as far out.

    The yellow line on the leading edge would be difficult to see at much distance and so would have little effect upon visibility - You can basically see about 1 arc minute of angle with black on white contrast and good light, and that is the width of the bars making up the letters on the 20/20 line at the optometrist's office. That is about 1 inch at 100 yards. A six inch high bar of yellow at 600 yards with black on white just barely meets that criteria, and yellow on gray, blue, or green would have to be closer. So, the bar would be visible to the men in the USAAF bomber when the Luftwaffe fighter was about two seconds or less from flashing through on a head-on pass. Fighters in head on passes would not see the color until even less time remained due to the higher closing speeds.

    My suspicion is that the yellow bands on the wings were for line up on formation flight or simply for unit ID and the CO's vanity. It may also have been an attempt at keeping the ground crew from bashing the leading edges with vehicles, tools, their heads. I would sure like to hear from someone who knows what they actually were thinking, instead of listening to the guy who has a couple human factors classes...

    Billski
     
  19. Jan 20, 2006 #19

    ebonheart_2

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    Oh... I wonder why that wasnt thought of before? Ya, it would be pritty hard to see when both of you are on a head on collosion coarse at 400Mph. The ground crew stuff sounds good; I think it had to be something simular because everybody did it, Japs, Germans, British, maybe the Soviets.... so it's something they all new about, and all used the same way... and just about the same color.

    I'd figure though, if it was for the ground crew or something, we would still use something simular... maybe the planes are just big enough now that it shouldnt be a problem? It would make the plane easyer to spot when flying formation at dusk or something wouldnt it?
     
  20. Jan 20, 2006 #20

    Rhino

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    Excellent point, but when you're considering the effect of arc minute of angle on contrast, you are only accounting for contrast against the colors of the adjoining aircraft structures and not taking into account that the contrast with the surrounding environment could easily mitigate those effects. Your point still stands to a large extent though because the contrast with the surrounding environment is in almost all cases going to be less than that with the aircraft colors. But the reduced angles (or is that increased?) for visibility would be negligible, so the variability in figuring all this out is almost endless. That was outstanding food for thought though. Thanks for mentioning it. Just goes to show how we don't think deeply enough sometimes.
     

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