The main reason for snow white planes? Thermal science. MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics professor R. John Hansman told Business Insider that the color best reflects sunlight, which keeps the cabin of the craft cool (kind of like how long white clothing is your best bet in the desert). Shielding the plane’s plastic parts (usually the nose cone) and composite materials from the sun is especially important. White paint also lets potentially dangerous solar radiation bounce right off. Think of white paint like airplane sunblock.
According to a 2011 study published in Human-Wildlife Interactions, birds appreciate a bright white plane in the sky too. The study, conducted by researchers from Purdue University and the National Wildlife Research Center, found that white airplanes experienced fewer bird collisions than deep blue and light blues planes. This research suggests that our feathered friends can most easily pick white planes out of the sky, and swerve accordingly.
The white paint helps humans visually too. It’s not a matter of collision though, thank goodness. The whiteness makes cracks, dings, and divots stick out like a sore thumb to the human eye. And, you know, being able to detect damage on an aircraft is kind of important.