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Images: Admark’s Middle-Earth Challenge!

18 November 2003

Admark’s Middle-Earth Challenge!

Admark’s partnership with Air New Zealand continues with the newly-themed Lord of the Rings Boeing 747-400, designed to commemorate the release of the third and final instalment of the trilogy – The Return of the King.

Admark previously printed and applied the aircraft graphics commemorating the release of the second movie, “The Two Towers”, however this time round the graphics are 20 per cent larger and represent the biggest single aircraft project Admark has ever undertaken.

Made up of 360 individual pieces, the 800 square metre graphic curves around the fuselage and engines of the 185 tonne Boeing, stretching more than 48 metres along each side of the aircraft and up to eight metres deep from the centre of the roof round to the cargo belly.

Given the sheer scale of the image, the task of printing and applying it to the aircraft fuselage was planned by Admark with military precision – particularly as the entire application had to be completed during the limited timeframe of a routine 54-hour engineering check.


Admark’s 28-strong team worked on the mural – from computer designers who broke up the image into manageable panels, digital printers who produced the vast images onto self-adhesive film, a finishing team who cut out the individual pieces, and finally, the application team who worked around the clock at Air New Zealand’s engineering base in Auckland to apply the image to the aircraft. The application alone took a total of 585 man hours, making the project a logistical as well as an artistic triumph.

The aviation marking film used on the aircraft was specifically designed by 3M and was tested by the US Air Force and approved by the US Federal Aviation Authority. It was designed to withstand huge changes in the pressurization of the aircraft and speeds of 1,000 kilometres. Enormous temperature fluctuation is also an issue, from –60oC while cruising at 35,000 feet to 60oC during prolonged spells on the tarmac mid-summer in destinations such as Los Angeles. Interestingly, although the actual film is barely thicker than cling film, the sheer size of the image means that the decal actually weighs 106 kilos.

Admark’s Managing Director, Laurie Pilling, says “it’s interesting when we decorate aircraft – people think the pictures are painted on – they’re not, they’re actually just huge sticky labels. It takes a lot of preparation … the entire aircraft has to be painstakingly cleaned with alcohol first to ensure the self-adhesive film attaches firmly”.

Pilling also says “Admark is a world-leader in the application of aircraft graphics and we believe this to be the largest flying billboard ever created. I’m so proud of the team at Admark, they’ve done a tremendous job on what is an extremely challenging project”.


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