While nowadays, the word ‘doping’ may conjure an entirely different context, in the aviation world it has been used since the earliest era of flight to refer to the process of applying a lacquer coating to aircraft fabric; this results in a tightly-stretched surface which helps enhance the aircraft’s aerodynamic attributes.
Doping was a standard procedure back when aircraft were constructed simply of fabric stretched over a wooden frame. These days, however, it is mostly used only by those involved in the conservation and restoration of historic aircraft. As a Museum with a number of aircraft with doped fabric, it is important that we understand this historical process and keep the relevant knowledge and skills alive so that we can continue to properly conserve and care for the aircraft in our collection.
In this video, our Safety and Surface Technician, Nathan Bosher, talks us through what doping is and demonstrates the basic techniques involved.
For a historic look at fabric doping, check out this United States Navy Aviation Service Schools instructional film from 1941: