In 2018, Aerographics created a unique paint scheme for a Canadian icon—the de Havilland Beaver— and helped its owner Mike Potter win a Silver Lindy Award in the Seaplane Category at Oshkosh’s AirVenture. A Silver Lindy to an aircraft restorer is like a Michelin Star to a restaurateur.
Designing paint schemes for aircraft presents many challenges to the graphic designer. On the one hand there are designers like Alexander Calder, whose 1960s abstract painting of primary colours on Braniff Airways DC-8s seemed to ignore the aluminum canvas upon which he painted. On the other hand, factory paint schemes use the simplest and least expensive means to accentuate the best features of an aircraft and camouflage the less attractive qualities.
Creating a scheme for the classic amphibian-equipped Canadian de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver was both an honour and a challenge. Respect for the graphic traditions and form of the iconic Beaver were paramount when the design was created. It could not be overly swoopy or intricate, nor should it employ techniques not familiar to the factory painter of the day. Above all, it had to be unique.
The paint scheme in black and white, two shades of silver and a red lightning bolt accent line speaks to the classic cheatlines of the old Royal Canadian Air Force of the same era, to a sense of forward and stately motion, but not high speed (which the Beaver is not capable of), along with an appreciative but non-appropriative nod to colours of the Haida Gwaii region where the Beaver still reigns supreme among float-equipped bush planes.
The design of “Uniform Papa Mike’s” paint scheme was done in concert with the custom interior created by world-class interior designer Diane Cramphin of Boston, whose extraordinary colour and materiality senses helped inform the exterior colour choices. The design of the exterior had to be tasteful, timeless and move with the pure and utilitarian lines of the Beaver. It had to be both modern and yet of the era in which the Beaver assembly line flourished.
A great design is truly only as good as the quality of the execution. In this case, owner and aviation legend Mike Potter contracted one of the best and most experienced aircraft restorers in Canada—Port Aircraft Interiors of Langley, BC. Potter himself battled troublesome weather for nearly two weeks to deliver his aircraft to Port—and the result is well worth the effort. Many thanks to Port’s photographer Dale Klippenstein for his assistance on the project and for allowing us to use his images.