Kracon gives aircrafts a new finishBy: Julie Miller, Design and Content Manager
- 1406 Flightline Drive, Lincoln
- 916-645-1614, kracon.com
How much does it cost to paint an airplane?
The answer: Much, much more than a car. In fact, not only are airplanes in general pricey but a lot of expense is involved in painting them from the cost of paint to the specialized and technical labor.
Kracon Aircraft Inc. paints airplanes from the lower-priced $20,000 models up to some ranging in the tens of millions. The paint alone can cost as much as $600 a pint, said Kracon owner David Szkotak. It can be auto paint, but some planes specify aircraft paint that is designed to be more durable and tolerant to heat. For a two-passenger airplane, a paint job might cost about $14,000.
Kracon has had some well-known customers such as the Patriots Jet Team, California Highway Patrol, Homeland Security, Cal Trans, as well as celebrity aerobatic pilot Julie Clark.
In the world of airplanes, Kracon is nationally known. Planes and helicopters are flown in from all over the country to get a shiny new coat. For instance, there is an Embraer jet, 14-passenger commuter plane costing roughly $13 million, Szkotak said, that flies around the country — to Chicago, Houston and Naples, Florida. However, while it was on the ground at Thunder Valley Casino, a storm pushed a dumpster into the wing.
Parts to fix the damage cost $80,000. But, Szkotak said, the plane is losing $20,000 a day when it’s not working.
Other planes Szkotak has recently specialized in painting is the Cirrus SR20 and SR22, a luxury in general aviation.
“They are the iPhones of the sky,” he said. “The inside feels like a Lexus.”
Szkotak said his is one of two shops in the country that specializes painting the Cirrus planes. The other one is in Minnesota. The $400,000-plus planes require special paint and can only be certain colors because of the heat they experience while in flight. If it is painted the wrong color, Szkotak said the plane could be grounded.
Szkotak has been the owner of Kracon for three years, however, he is not new to the business.
Before airplanes, he used to paint cars. Szkotak’s older brother wrecked his Cadillac and their mother thought he should work at the body shop. So at 14, Szkotak got a job at the auto body shop. He started sweeping floors and worked his way up to painter and got certified. Later he worked at a body repair shop in Grass Valley. However, he didn’t enjoy painting cars because, he said, there are typically bad circumstances that bring people to the auto body shop.
“There’s no reward in collision repair,” he added.
So, when he saw an ad for a painter at Kracon, he acted fast.
“I saw the ad and sent my resume and immediately drove down,” Szkotak said. “I basically stuck around until they said OK.”
Six years later, he has taken the reins of the company.
One change he has made to the 46-year-old business is attracting higher-end customers. Kracon used to only work on smaller planes in the $20,000 range, Szkotak said, but he has reached out to work on planes costing $800,000 and into the millions.
“We’re trying to cater to these high-end people,” he said.
Szkotak estimates there’s only about 50 aircraft paint shops in the nation and attributes part of the success of his company to “advertising a lot.”
Szkotak is not yet a pilot himself but, through trade with a flight instructor, he will start lessons soon. The benefits of getting his license, he said, could be to fly to customers for estimates and fly his wife and two kids to Disneyland.
The Szkotak family lives in Grass Valley, but has a fondness for Lincoln.
“I really like the community,” he said, “It’s a great community.”
And Szkotak enjoys working at the Lincoln Airport and watching interesting planes rumble in.
“Airplanes are cool,” Szkotak said. “I’ve been here six years and I still run outside wondering, what's that making that noise?”