After 4 intense sessions with the paint sprayer, roughly 12 gallons of Kilz latex primer followed by 3 gallons of ceiling paint...
I am pleased as punch to report. IT TOTALLY WORKED!
So for anybody out there Googling: "Can you paint a basement ceiling with a paint sprayer?"
YES. YOU. CAN.
After a long journey (demo, patching & sanding, wiring, priming & painting) the underside of the bungalow pine flooring has successfully become a "finished" basement ceiling. Everything including the floor joists, exposed ductwork and pipes have been coated with a bright clean white.
The end result is a nice mix of clean industrial loft meets eclectic summer cottage. I've always wanted to try a white painted floor, but I like this better because (in theory) I won't ever have to get down on my hands and knees to scrub it clean.
The assorted pipes and ductwork recede a bit into the all white background. Overall the basement ceiling feels open. lighter, brighter and significantly less dungeon-like.
Yay for PAINT!