An airline's livery can be dull, stylish, sedate or even amusing. The initial trend saw fuselages left as bare metal with the airline's name so small as to be hardly visibly from a distance. This unalloyed colour scheme evolved to include a horizontal line painted along the row of windows, and then into the predoninantly all-white fuselages, boldly coloured tailplanes and unmissable company name branding that is most common today.

But there have been some glories and gaffs along the way, so I'll take a livery a week and highlight the best and worst moments in plane paint jobs past and present...

Kulula's comedy fuselage has arrows pointing to the 'Nose Cone', 'Engine' and 'Black Box'...
posted by Richard Green on 06/09/2017

Kulula is a South Africa low cost carrier that wears its sense of humour on its fuselage. On the face of it, jibing about the captain being the 'big cheese', numbering the wings 'wing #1' and 'wing#2', and jokingly showing where the black box is kept (with brackets saying 'which is actually orange'), could be a high risk strategy, given the understandably serious nature of flying. But Kulula's irreverence and jocularity is a long established part of the airline's corporate personality, and as such it gets away with it. There is even a dotted outline of a toilet at the rear of the fuselage with a large arrow saying 'Loo (or mile-high club initiation chamber)'.

The tongue-in-cheek 'Flying 100' concept was dreamt up by the airline's in-house design team; a result of a 2010 initiative to 'demystify air travel for our fans'. The airline has encouraged mirth on board too, with lines uttered by cabin crew that include; "Kulula Airlines is pleased to announced that we have some of the best flight attendants in the industry. Unfortunately, none of them are on this flight!"; "People, people, we’re not picking out furniture here, find a seat and get in it."; and "Please take care when opening the overhead compartments because, after a landing like that, sure as hell everything has shifted.”

Kulula has an admirable no-nonsense style and uses clear and simple English throughout. The Website for example, has 'Flying 101' sections that explain in splendidly clear and simple terms, issues such as lost luggage, what taxes and fees make up the ticket price, and why never ever - even in jest - to josh about having a bomb in your bag. Trust me, I've worked at enough airports to know that this happens. Kulula gives a recent example at George airport where the check-in agent asked 'Do you have any sharp objects in your possession? 'No, just a bomb.' replied the passenger, which landed him in isolation, questioning and court, all on the same day.

But a decent sense of humour is the company's trademark. It calls its passengers 'fans' throughout its Website, majors on jokes in its advertising campaigns, and encourages its crews to make humorous passenger announcements. Another quirky addition to Kulula's livery line-up is an aircraft with 'THIS WAY UP' in huge letters on the side of the fuselage, complete with arrows as though on a packing crate containing fragile goods.

The regular Kulula livery is predominantly green, with large letter 'K' on the engines and tailplane, and the addition of a blue dot next to the 'K' at the rear of the fuselage.

How can Kulula work for you?

Getting around South Africa: Kulula flies to Cape Town, George, East London and Durban from Johannesburg, and to Nairobi. The airline uses both Jo'Burg's OR Tambo International and Lanseria airports.  

The frequent flyer club: as of March this year, Kulula passengers can earn and spend Avios points, which is the frequent flyer currency of the British Airways Executive Club. 

A few facts: the airline is South Africa's first low cost carrier and was formed in 2001. It's actually part of Comair, which has been flying in and around South Africa as a British Airways franchise carrier - meaning that it offers the BA product from BA liveried aircraft and BA uniformed crews, but is a separate airline from BA. Kulula has a fleet of 10 planes, nine of which are new Boeing 737-800s and one is a 737-400.

In 2010 Kulula fell foul of FIFA's mighty lack of a sense of humour when it was forced to pull an advertising campaign. At the time the World Cup was being hosted by South Africa, Kulula had described itself as the 'Unofficial National Carrier of the You-Know-What', which takes place 'Not next year, not last year, but somewhere in between'. Of course this was referring to the FIFA Football World Cup. Another advert announced 'affordable flights to everybody except Sepp Blatter' (the then FIFA president), who was offered a free seat 'for the duration of that thing that is happening right now'.

Below is a silly Top Gun spoof Kalula TV ad.

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Well no, it's the painted on beaks of Thailand's Nok Air...
posted by Richard Green on 10/04/2019

The trademark beak paint-job on the front of every Nok Air 737. Photo Nok Air

Nok is the Thai word for bird, and nobody can accuse Nok Air of being shy with its liveries. Its slogan is 'Smiling across Asia', and the bright yellow beaks are painted on all 33 of its aircraft. The fuselages follows through on the daftness and come in various parrot-like colour schemes.

No, I don't know why Nok has an aircraft with a clown fish fuselage behind the beak either. Photo Nok Air

The airline's major shareholder is Thai Airways, but Nok does its own low cost thing from its base at the old Don Mueang Airport in Bangkok - flying to 26 domestic destinations, plus Yangon, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Singapore. One-way fares start at about 900 THB (£20)

A bevvy of beaks on Nok Air 737's. Photo Nok Air

How can Nok Air work for you?

It's well worth keeping Nok Air in mind for domestic flights within Thailand, or to make a low cost hop across to Vietnam.

Pro's: the fleet is new and the cabins are fresh, with hard-working crews. There are three travel classes - 'Promotion', which has no free baggage allowance for the hold, Nok Eco that has a free baggage allowance of 15kg, and Nok Flexi that has a free 20kg allowance and the maximum flexibility to change dates and routes etc.

All classes can make a free seat selection in advance and get an in flight snack, plus free at the gate and on board WiFi - currently free WiFi is fitted in three aircraft, but the system is being rolled out fleet-wide.

Nok Air crew and beak on an ATR-72. Photo Nok Air

& Cons: the seat pitch and width - at 30 inches and 17.2 inches, isn't great, though fine enough for the airlines' relatively short sectors. Keep in mind that the airline's hub is the old Bangkok Airport to the north of the city and not the newer Suvarnabhumi Airport to the west of the city - fine if you are already in Bangkok, but not a good option for connecting to or from international flights, which mostly use the new airport. There is no frequent flyer club.

Front views of a NokScoot Boeing 777. Photo NokScoot

A few facts: Nok Air was formed in 2004 as a low cost airline, partly owned by Thai Airways. Its fleet is made up of eight Bombardier Dash 8's, two ATR 72 turboprops and 23 Boeing 737-800s. The average fleet age is 6.5 years.

Good to know: just when you thought that airline names couldn't get more silly, Nok has teamed up with Scoot Airlines of Singapore to bring us NokScoot. Oh well, it's a low cost medium to long haul airline formed in 2015 that for now is focussing on routes from Bangkok to China and Taiwan. It has three Boeing 777-200ER's.

Blessing aircraft in order to bring good luck is a Buddhist tradition in Thailand. Photo NokScoot

See Nok Air and NokScoot

Thar she blows - Airbus adds a Beluga smile to its latest outlandish transporter plane...
posted by Richard Green on 24/07/2018

I think he's trying to tell us something - the new Beluga XL looks suitably flipperesque. Photo Airbus

Airbus manufactures different parts of its passenger planes across various European countries, and it uses specially designed aircraft to transport large sections of its aircraft from their site of manufacture, to the assembly plants in Toulouse, Hamburg, and Seville.

The problem was solved in 1996 with the use of the Beluga-ST - a strange looking aircraft that was based on the company's A300-600. By grafting an extra large diametre section of fuselage onto the existing base, the bulbous-looking machine was able to carry wings, tailfins, and other fuselage sections.

Now comes the latest version, the Airbus Beluga 'XL', which is based on the skeleton of the company's more modern and advanced A330-200 aircraft, which is six metres longer than the previous Beluga, a metre wider, and can carry six tonnes more weight. And this time Airbus has gone the whole hog and has added Beluga Whale-like eyes and a smile to the front. 

Five of these Cetacean themed aircraft are due to enter service and replace the older models. Incidentally, the light-hearted paintjob came about in part by asking the workforce their opinion as to the new Beluga XL branding. The good people working for Airbus opted for anthropomophisation on a grand scale - such a shame Jonny Morris is no longer with us. 

The machine is bound to bring a smile to the bean counters too, as the BelugaXL can carry two wings for the new wide body A350 XWB instead of a single one in the previous BelugaST model.

The BelugaXL has cleared the paintshop and has made its debut flight. Photo Airbus

One more thing....Boeing has also addressed the problem of transporting large fuselage and wing sections from plant to plant, and currently uses a modified 747 Jumbo Jet that it calls the Dreamlifter. It looks a lot less cuddly than the Beluga, which might help to explain why Boeing have the below publicity shot on its website.

Nope, I've no idea why there are kiddies involved in this Dreamlifter shot either. Photo Boeing

The evolution of such outsized cargo carriers can be traced from the Aero Spacelines Pregnant Guppy, which first flew in 1962, and then the Aero Spacelines Super Guppy that entered service in 1965. Both aircraft were based on an extensively modified Boeing Stratocruiser that was used for transporting component's in NASA's Apollo programme. 

For obvious reasons it was likely irksome for Airbus to have to use transporters based on its arch rival Boeing's Stratocruiser, and so the Beluga cargo aircraft was based on modifications to the Airbus A300-600. Five were made and have been flying Airbus parts between assembly plants since 1995. 

The first Airbus Beluga-ST being loaded with part of an aircraft fuselage. Photo Eric Baur/Flickr

And another ever, the Soviet response to the problem was completely different. It came in the form of the Myasishchev VM-T. It was based on the Myasishchev Molot bomber and was intended to carry some of the gigantic components of the Buran space vehicles - itself Russia's copy of NASA's Space Shuttle.

The tail plane disappeared in favour of two end-plate tail fins to allow for the plane to carry the most bulky of outsized cargo, which was then bolted to the top of the plane's fuselage. The outlandishly outsized rocket strapped to the top of the aircraft was many times larger than the carrying aircraft's cargo, lending it a dung beatle-style bizarreness. 

The Myasishchev VM-T landing at the Baikonur Cosmodrome with its ludicrously large payload

Braniff International and the end of the plain plane...
posted by Richard Green on 15/06/2018

Braniff's 'End of the plain plane' campaign began in the early 60s and led to its 'Jelly Bean' livery

Even via grainy old photos, Braniff's 'end of the plain plane' livery remains eye-catching half a century after its launch. It was part of a bold turnaround plan put in place by the airline's then boss, flambouyant Texan Harding Lawrence, and saw the airline adopt a cutting edge approach to its design, uniforms and cabins. And all this at a time when airline colour schemes - such as they were - left the fuselage as silver metal, or painted a stripe or two (called cheatlines) along the row of windows, complimented by drab interiors and dowdy uniforms.

The innovative Braniff branding introduced seven vivid colours to the airline's fleet - including Lemon Yellow, Chocolate Brown and Metallic Purple, and there were flambouyant cabins to match, imported Latin American furniture for its lounges, and avant-garde guard crew uniforms created by Italian fashion designer Emilio Pucci.

Emilio Pucci designed Braniff uniforms. Note the 'raindomes' being sported by two of the women

These days hardly a week goes by without an airline announces a new celebtrity designed uniform or a designer endorsed 'look' - think Virgin Atlantic and Vivienne Westwood designed crew uniforms, Finnair and Marimekko designed tablewear, or Air France and it's tie up for its Paris Charles De Gaulle lounges and Alain Ducasse. But Braniff's approach was truly groundbreaking in its day.

Pucci created six complete uniform collections for Braniff between 1965 and 1974 and even designed a bizarre plastic helmet dubbed a 'rain dome'. It was in the days of very few jetties, and so the idea was for hostesses to sport the space-age helmet on the walk between the terminal and the aircraft to avoid wind and rain messing up their big 60s hairdos. But the helmets cracked, were surely impractical, and were quietly dropped. There were even a range of Barbie dolls sporting Braniff uniforms - rain domes included - and Ken was kitted out as a Braniff pilot.

Braniff BAC 1-11s and a Boeing 707 in its 'Jelly Bean' livery

Getting back to the livery, I'd always understood that it was the idea of Braniff's CEO's wife. The story always repeated to me as though she'd made a casual comment during a BBQ, but the real story isn't quite as folksy as it sounds. You see, the airline's CEO Harding Lawrence married Mary Wells, chairman of the Wells, Rich, Greene advertising agency in New York. At the time she was at the top of her game as an advertising guru and one of the best paid women in the US.

Incidentally, Braniff started life as Braniff Airways Inc. It was founded in 1930 by airline entrepreneur Paul Revere Braniff, who later sold it to his brother Tom. Tom died in a flying boat crash in 1954, and his brother of cancer six months later. Lawrence Harding was vice president of Continental Airlines before being appointed as the Braniff CEO. By this time Braniff International Airways was already flying across the US Midwest, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Harding set about growing it from America's 11th largest airline, to its would-be market leader.

A brace of Braniff Boeing 727s

The Braniff makeover that Harding initiated had real substance, and leading architect Alexander Girard was taken on to zhoosh up its materials. Eventually, Girard created some 17,000 Braniff-specific items), and the lounge and ticket office furniture was so desirable that some of the range went on sale in 1967.

Braniff also invested hugely in its 'Terminal of the Future' in its home base airport of Dallas Love Field. The space age terminal was connected to the parking areas by a futuristic 'Jetrail' monorail. The 10 gondolas were slung under rails and ran from the new Braniff terminal to the 'Braniff Remote Parking Terminal'. The system was shut down in 1974, some time after Braniff had relocated to Dallas Fort Worth Airport, and had a last lease of life as a disco, until it was dismantled in 1978.

A mock up of what a Braniff liveried Concorde might have looked like

Braniff even operated Concordes for a time in the late 70s, though the fact that the airline never actually owned a Concorde and that the plane couldn't fly supersonically over US air space, meant that the route from Washington to Dallas was more a gimmick than anything. However, the airline did order three Concorde's in 1966, though the order was cancelled a few years later.

The Big Orange, Braniff 747 takes to the skies, perhaps to the Big Apple

Braniff flew Jumbo Jets to and from London's Gatwick Airport. The route was generally operated by one of the company's orange 747's, and I think I recall adversing along the lines of 'Fly the Big Orange to the Big Apple'.

Crazily vivid interior of a Braniff 'Big Orange'

In case the Big Orange and the other Braniff planes weren't colour overloads in themselves, the airline's cabins echoed the end of the plain plane concept. There were at least seven matching cabin colours.

Braniff approcahed the modern artist Alexander Calder to produce the world's first and largest flying artwork. In fact Calder was comissioned to create three new one-off liveries. The first was painted onto a Douglas DC-8 and called the 'Flying Colorsof South America' in 1973, and this was followed in the USA's centenerry year 1976 by a Boeing 727-200 that Calder patriotically rendered into a red, white and blue 'Flying Colors of the United States'. Somewhat remarkably all Braniff markings - including even the name on the tailplane - were removed from the plane. Calder didn't get the opportunity of finishing the third plane, called the 'Spirit of Mexico', as the artist died in 1976.

Braniff DC-8 sporting its Alexander Calder 'Flying Colors of South America' livery

Braniff had an advert strap line and jingle in 1980 that proclaimed 'We better be better, We're Braniff'. Bold livery excepted, the airline was in some trouble by this time, caused by low load factors, high oil prices, a controversial boss, and an over ambitious expansion. It may sound childish, but then again I was a child at this time - when we played with it at the school bus stop in tones to imply that they were so utterly hopeless that they had 'better be better'.

The company went under on May 12th 1982, after which the ad line was changed at the school bus stop to 'We better be better, we're bankrupt'. But in a world of ever blander livieries - witness the recent unveiling of Lufthansa's new monumentally mediochre livery - pioneering and maverick Braniff made a bold and creative attempt to position the airline at the forefront of deisgn, fashion and art.


Thanks to its revolutionary style and arty execution, Braniff has its followers, even so long after its demise. For some more detailed history on the airline, see Braniff Pages. And for Braniff branded goods - from throws to Christmas tree baubles - yes really, see Braniff Boutique.

All Nippon Airways readies for the largest flying animal livery ever, in triplicate...
posted by Richard Green on 25/04/2018

ANA's soon-to-be-delivered A380's mocked up as orange, green and blue flying turtles. Photo ANA

ANA created such a splash with its proposed sea turtle livery, that it has today announced two more colours - green and orange. The striking paintjobs will adorn the airline's new Airbus A380s, due to be delivered from Spring 2019. The new aircraft are ANA's first A380s, and will be introduced on the lucrative holiday and honeymoon Tokyo to Honolulu route, before other routes are added later.

It will be the first time that ANA has offered First Class on the route, and the airline has made an effort to customise the cabins too. The total capacity will be 520, with eight first class seats, 56 business class, and 73 in premium economy.

All classes will have access to bar counters, where drinks and snacks will be available, plus at the rear of the main deck ANA has created a room where parents will be able to tend to their babies, and more gernerally passengers can change clothes before arriving at their destination.

It may look a bit Blue Peter, but the winning idea gets a 73m meter canvas to cover in about 1,100kgs of paint. Photo ANA

Chosen from over 2,000 entries to a design competition, the winning motif is a Hawaiian Green Turtle - a symbol of good luck and prosperity on the islands. The turtle is a much loved creature on Hawaii and is called 'Honu' in the local language, and in the super-sized super bold livery, it has been given the corporate blue wash of the ANA colours and called 'Lani' (meaning sky), emerald green called 'Kai' (ocean), and orange called ' Ka La' (sunset). 

In tandem ANA will be supporting organisations and activities on Hawaii designed to protect sea turtles. And in a moment of marketing madness, ANA also created a new concept name called “ANA HAWAii”. The airline says that 'By flipping the “ii” 180 degrees, it turns into two exclamation points. This symbolizes the numerous excitements that passengers are able to experience including cabin features, and promotions, as well as the grand opening of a new ANA Lounge at Honolulu Airport.' Does anyone else understand that?  

How can ANA work for you?

Getting to Japan: ANA has its hubs at Tokyo's Narita and Osaka's Kansai International airports, and operates flights across Japan, and to Japan from Europe, Asia and the USA. It's largely a business focussed airline, with the exception of its Hawaii flights and a few other holiday destinations. 

Pro's: ANA was awarded five stars for the fourth consecutive year by the world's leading Airline and Airport review site, SKYTRAX, and was also the launch customer and current biggest operator of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. On board service is very good, and the airline has an especially good business class, with dining on demand - my whim to have a obster curry a little before a morning landing was eccentric, but delicious and memorable.

& Cons: It's not so easy to find cheap fare deals on ANA, as the carrier is gunning for the higher yielding business passenger, rather than holidaymakers.

The frequent flyer club: the ANA Mileage Club has more than 26 million members and thanks to ANA's membership of the Star Alliance, has a large number of airline and other travel partners on which to collect and spend points.

A few facts: ANA was founded in 1952 as a helicopter operator, and has grown into the largest airline in Japan, carrying 47 million passengers in 2017. A big boost came in 1986 when the government of Japan lifted the condition that state owned Japan Air Lines (JAL) be the only carrier allowed to operate international flights.

ANA now flies to 87 international routes and 114 domestic routes with a fleet of around 260 aircraft, with an average age of about 9.5 years. It also owns the regional airline ANA Wings, the low cost carrier Vanilla Air and the charter airline Air Japan. It's also a majority stakeholder in naffly named Peach and Air Do.

For further information see ANA

Belavia comes in from the cold...
posted by Richard Green on 05/11/2017

Not a snowflake on the tail, but a cornflower. One of Belavia's new 737-800s. Photo Belavia

For a very long time, the Belavia livery was a Cold War throwback - closely resembling Aeroflot, but long after even Aeroflot had gone all contemporary and adopted its new red, white, blue, silver and orange paint job. Seeing a Belavia aircraft, with it's aged logo, font, and colour scheme, looked like either something from an old spy film, or an example of a retro livery - where an airline paints one or two aircraft in a nostalgic former livery.

Belavia Tu-154 in the company's familiar, neigh tired old livery. Photo Belavia

With two blue lines along the length of the fuselage - called cheatlines - and an encircled logo on the tailplane, Belavia's old livery even managed to make brand new aircraft look washed up and dated.

Yet things changed when the company introduced its new cool purplish blue and white paint job in 2016. It's a little surprising not to have incorporated the green and red of the national flag into the livery, but the fresh blue chosen is a colour close to the hearts of all Belarusians. The two-tone livery is white and cornflower blue. It's the national flower of Belarus and a strong cultural symbol too, as the cornflower can be seen in fields all over the country, and is a symbol of happiness and longevity.

A Belavia 737-800 getting airborne. Photo Belavia

So the white circular design on the tailfin may look like a snowflake, but it's not.

One more thing...Given the highly controlled economy of Belarus, it's somewhat surprising to discover that the country has become a centre of IT excellence - with Belarusian programmers responsible for the Viber messaging app and the successful multi-player World of Tanks.

The game dates from 2009 and features various tanks and armoured from the Second World War. Amongst other milestones, World of Tanks holds the record for the most number of people playing simultaneously - set in January 2013 with a record breaking 190,541 players. In total some 200 million players have enjoyed a virtual spin in a World of Tanks fighting vehicle.

The dedicated World of Tanks livery appeared on a Belavia Boeing 737-300 in July 2016. 'The Game from Belarus, Enjoyed Worldwide' it says on the fuselage...

World of Tanks livery on a Belavia 737-300. Photo Belavia

How can Belavia work for you?

Getting to Belarus: Belavia has its hubs at Minsk National Airport. It's the national carrier and operates flights across Europe, the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States), Georgia, Azerbaijan, Central Asia, Israel, Lebanon and Iran. Incidentally, Belarus introduced a five-day visa-free scheme in 2017, valid for citizens of 80 countries.  

Pro's: the Soviet made aircraft that once made up the entire fleet are long gone, and today Belavia operates an all western fleet of 26 aircraft, including 18 Boeing 737's, four Bombardier CRJ's and four Embraers - with two more of the latter on order. The look and feel of the airline is now far from communist era, and the website has been spruced up to include online check-in and the like, and you'll find the perfectly decent 'OnAir' in flight magazine too (though it is mostly in Russuan). 

Service has perked up a lot in recent years and the airline still provdes free snacks and hot meals, dependent on flight duration.

An old livery Belavia 737-300 looking like something from the 70s. Photo Belavia

& Cons: Belavia lacks the critical mass of flights and frequencies to be of use for connecting passengers, and isn't in an airline alliance.

Belavia then and now; from parkas and cheatlines to a dapper jacket and video game promotion. Photos Belavia

The frequent flyer club: 'Belavia Leader' is only good for anyone who flies Belavia a lot, as it doesn't have any other airline partners for collecting and spending.

A few facts: Belavia was founded in 1996 as a helicopter operator, when after the collapse of Communism in 1991, the local division of Aeroflot was nationalised and renamed Belavia. In its early days, Belavia operated a mixed fleet of aging Soviet-built aircraft, but for some years now has a western-built fleet of Boeings, Bombardiers and Embraers.

Cue soaring music and some air-to-air shots for the new Belavia livery



For more information see Belavia, Minsk National Airport, and Visit Belarus


The 'Flying Bananas' of Hughes Airwest...
posted by Richard Green on 23/07/2017

Hughes Airwest was a California-based airline that operated regional flights in the 1970's. Its owner was the famous businessman (and later perhaps the world's most recluse) Howard Hughes, and its banana-yellow liveried planes were a familiar sight at west coast airports.

The company's strap line was 'Top Banana in the West' and it's banana-themed advertising was enough to thrill me as a kid when I was living in California. I was about seven and living in Palmdale, California, when my parents treated the family to a return Hughes Airwest flight to Los Angeles - it's a journey of under 100 kilometres, so it was more of a treat than anything. 

The airline's forerunner was Air West, which came into being in 1968 with the merger of Pacific Air Lines, Bonanza Airlines, and West Coast Airlines, until Howard Hughes - also the owner of TWA (Trans World Airlines)- bought the airline in 1970. The bright yellow paintjob was the brainchild of Mario Armond Zamparelli and first appeared in September 1971.

Zamparelli had a long association with Hughes and created the corporate identity of TWA and Hughes Airwest, plus designed the interiors of many Hughes-owned hotels; including the Desert in and The Sands in Las Vegas.

Nowadays it's become absurdly normal for airlines to be named after fruit - think Peach and Vanilla of Japan, and Mango of South Africa for example - and other banalities like Hop! (a low cost carrier from Air France), Up (part of El Al), Level (a long haul low cost airline owned by IAG), Wizz (Hungarian low cost carrier) and WOW (an Icelandic carrier).

But back in the 70's, airline names generally had a bit more gravitas - many were official national airlines that carried their flags to far off lands, like BOAC (British Overseas Airways Corporation), QANTAS (Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services), and SABENA (Societé Anonyme Belge d'Exploitation de la Navigation Aérienne). Their aircraft weren't generally painted in bold and amusing liveries - as with the 'flying bananas' of Hughes Airwest, which evolved an entire bendy fruit corporate universe to match. 

Naming an airline after a person goes back further that fruit-based monikers though. Still flying is Austria's Niki, named after its founder, the racing driver Niki Lauder, and of course Ryanair, which was founded by three men, two of whom had the surname 'Ryan'. And before that there was Ansett, an Australian airline named after its founder Reg Ansett; Wardair, a Canadian airline named after its founder Max Ward, and Laker Airways, started by Sir Freddie Laker in 1966. 

When I flew Hughes Airwest in the early 70s I travelled on a Fairchild F-27 twin turboprop, but these were phased out before the end of the decade, leaving the airline with Boeing 727s and McDonald Douglas DC-9s. 

The livery came about following the crash of flight 706, in which a Hughes Airwest DC-9 suffered a mid air collision with a US Marine Crops F-4B fighter jet. All 49 people on both aircraft were killed. It was decided that a new corporate identity would be a good idea to refresh and reinvent the brand, and so cue the 'flying banana' concept.


It's unclear as to just how far the design agency foresaw the marketing and PR link with bendy fruit at the outset, but for sure the ad men pounced on the slogans and humour of the colour scheme soon enough. Printed and TV adverts used the Top Banana line repeatedly, with the above TV advert being the most bonkers in its banana theme and banana placement. Did those poor crew/extras really have to sing whilst holding a banana? 

Even by the fickle standards of the airline industry, Hughes Airwest wasn't long lived, and after slipping up on a disastrous strike by ticket agents - that closed the airline for two months in 1979 - the airline was vulnerable to closure or takeover. The end came just four months after the strike when Hughes Airwest the was bought by Republic Airlines. In time Republic was bought by Northwest Airlines, which was them merged into Delta.

One More Thing...Ronald Reagan chartered Hughes Airwest aircraft to fly him around the US as part of his presidential campaign in 1976. The former Governor of California clocked up some 50,000 miles on Hughes Airwest, visiting 62 cities in 19 states.

Reagan making a banana look like a plane while flying in a plane looking like a banana. Photo 

Icelandair is at it again; this time converting a plane into a flying glacier...
posted by Richard Green on 01/06/2017

A special promotional flypast of the Vatnajökull Glacier. Photo Icelandair

Following on from Icelandair's earlier Northern Lights livery, the company has come up with another bold and bonkers design - this time the theme is a glacier. Specifically, a Boeing 757-200 into has been transformed into the Vatnajökull plane, a colourful representation of Iceland's (and Europe's) largest glacier mass.

The natural phenomenon that covers over 8,000 sq km (or about 8% of the country's land area) of the country's southeast with an average thckness of ice of 400 metres. The glacier played Siberia in the opening sequence of the 1985 James Bond film 'A View to a Kill', in which Bond (played for the last time by the late Roger Moore) bumped off a cabal of armed villains, before apparently escaping by submarine to Alaska. The glacier was used as a location for the second season of the HBO fantasy TV series, Game of Thrones too.

Icelandair's glacier liveried 757 at Orlando Airport. Photo Orlando Airport

Each of the Icelandair fleet are named after Icelandic volcanoes and commissioned this special livery as part of its 80th anniversary celebrations for 2017.
The plane was spray painted by hand by a team of artists - the same gang responsible for the Hekla Aurora plane. In case you'd like to know, the process of airbrushing the plane is a specialist task that took 24 days to complete, using 1,062 litres of paint to cover the entire plane.
Skilled spraypaint artists at work on the fuselage. Photo Icelandair
And like the Aurora concept, the new Vatnajökull plane also features touches of glacier detail inside the cabin. Ambient moving LED blue lighting is installed in the main cabin; headrests have a fresh ice white and brilliant turquoise design. Even the drinks trolley will be transformed into a mini ice-cave, while cups, napkins, and yes even sick bags, are decorated with glacier prints.
The cool blues and greens of the aircraft cabin, mimicking the hues of a glacier. Photo Icelandair
The Vatnajökull glacier has three active volcanos under its mantle of ice, and is the most active in Iceland and has erupted around 60 times in the last 800 years. Icelandair has been a supporter of the ‘Friends of Vatnajokull’ since the non-profit organisation was formed in 2009 to support research and educational activities.
The glacier theme even makes an appearance in the toilets. Photo Icelandair

For more information on the plane see

And for My Bathroom Wall's take on the airline and its Aurora Borealis livery, see My Bathroom Wall

Alaska Airlines Salmon-Thirty-Salmon livery takes 'flying fish' to new heights...
posted by Richard Green on 05/05/2017

A Boeing 737 sporting the original 'Salmon-Thirty-Salmon' livery of Alaska Airlines. Photo Alaska Airlines

One of the strangest aircraft liveries yet is the 120-ft long Alaskan pink salmon that was painted on the fuselage os a Beoing 737-400 in 2008 by Alaska Airlines. The fishy fuselage was crated in partnership with the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute and is oficially called - with an inexcusable pun on the type of plane it adorns (namely a Boeing 737), the 'Salmon-Thirty-Salmon'.


It was reprised on a newer aircraft too in 2012, when a slightly bigger plane was painted. This version includes salmon pink lettering on the word 'Alaska' on a fish that is 129 feet long, on a 737-800. It also has a scaly flourish showing fish scales on the winglets. 

Fish scales painted onto the winglets of the 737-800 - the upwards flick of the outer wing is 2.4 metres tall. Photo Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines carries nearly 12,500 tons of seafood annually, which represents about half of all Alaskan exports. The fish heads from its home state to markets across the USA, Canada and Mexico. Of course the key when handling perishables is speed, no disruptions, and a consistent temperature throughout the journey.

Side view of the salmon fuselage on the 737-800. Photo Alaska Airlines

A short video showing how the giant salmon was painted onto the side of the plane

How can Alaska Airlines work for you?

Getting to Alaska: Alaska Airlines flies to ten Alaskan destinations from it's hometown hub at Anchroage's Ted Stevens International Airport.

The frequent flyer club: Alaska Airlines isn't a member of an alliance, but does have codeshare agreements with a number of carriers. Its frequent flyer programme is called Mileage Plan.

A few facts: Alaska Airlines can trace its history back to 1932, when Linious "Mac" McGee painted 'McGee Airways' on the side of his Anchorage-based seaplane. By the mid 30s it had merged with Star Air Service to become the largest airline in the state, with 22 aircraft. Aquisitions continued, until the Boeing 727 joined the fleet in the mid-60s. The airline capitalised on the US deregulation of commercial aviation in 1979, and deftly moved to a more low cost model in the 90s. 

Alaska Airlines route map. Photo Alaska Airlines

The company has 156 planes - all Boeing 737's - and an average fleet age of nine years. Today the airline flies throughout Alaska, and across much of the western USA - with hubs in Anchorage, Los Angeles, Seattle and Portland. It also flies to the Hawaiian Islands, Florida, the north east, Mexico and Cuba.

In December 2016 Alaska Airlines made a bold aquisition of Virgin America, and has announced that the Virgin brand will disappear in favour of Alaskan, probably by 2019. Virgin America had 64 aircraft and flew to 24 destinations in the US at the time of the take over.

One more thing...Livery-wise, Alaska Airlines already has a distinctive paint job, in the form of a stylised Alaskan portrait on the tailplane of each of its planes. It represents the company's roots and is the face of an Eskimo - incidentally the more usual term for the indigenous people in Alaska, as against Inuit used elsewhere.


Alaska Airlines regular livery with an Eskimo face on the tailfin. Photo Alaska Airlines

For further information see Alaska Airlines

Rossiya's flying Amur tiger livery...
posted by Richard Green on 14/02/2017

    The striking Amur Tiger face on the nose of the Rossiya 747

Liveries don’t get more striking that this tiger face painted onto the nose of a Rossiya Airlines Boeing 747.

Designed to highlight the plight of the world’s endangered species – and specifically here the Amur Tiger – a subspecies of the Siberian or Manchurian Tigers, the livery is in conjunction with the Amur Tiger Center.

The livery first appeared in June 2015 on the front of what was then a Transaero Airlines aircraft, but airlines demise in October 2015 put the survival of the livery in doubt. But Rossiya Airlines – a wholly owned subsidiary of Aeroflot took on all of the airline’s 747’s and has decided to keep the flying tiger on its jumbo registered EI-XLD.

The Amur tiger is the most northerly subspecies of a tiger (also known as the Siberian or North Chinese tiger). Once found throughout Russia’s Far East, northern China and the Korean Peninsula, some 95% of the world’s population of the tigers are found in Russia – concentrated in the Primorsky Krai and the southern Khabarovsk Krai. The population plummeted to just 40 animals in the 1940’s, but now seems stable at around 540. The greatest threat to the Amur tiger’s survival is unsurprisingly humans, with poaching causing around 80% of their deaths.

Rossiya's general livery since 2016 has a 'turbine blade motif, which gets denser towards the tail to 'create a sense of flight and continual motion', apparently.

How to make Rossiya Airline to work for you?

The airline is wholly owned by the Russian government, was formed in 1992, and is based at St Petersburg's Pulkovo Airport. A few years back the Russian government restructured the airline industry and merged Rossiya with Aeroflot and several domestic airlines. The company now operates from St Petersburg to 15 European cities, plus to Russia's south, near and far east.  

A few facts: Rossiya has a fleet of 61 all western built aircraft - including Boeing 737's, 747's and 777's, and Airbus A319s and A320s, with an average age of 12.8 years and operates routes to 80 cities in 15 countries.

The aircraft sporting tiger nose is scheduled on the Moscow to Simpheropol, Punta-Cana, Phuket, Bangkok and Goa routes. See more of the ‘Tigrolet’, as Rossiya calls it, at Rossiya Airlines 'Tigerlet'

One more thing...Rossiya's 747 has a rival - turning heads at the February 2018 Singapore Airshow is the prototype of the Brazilian manufacturer Embraer's E190-E2. Knowing that as a prototype the aircraft will be parked up at various air shows in the course of its duties, Embraer has gone a step further and painted a cockpit windows cover to complete the Tiger face.

The tiger faced E2 prototype, as designed by a junior technician employee

The tiger face joins another Embraer E2 aircraft that has been painted with the face of an eagle. Chief executive of Commercial Aviation at Embraer John Slatterly was dissatisfied with livery proposals from outside agencies, and in fact went with the suggestion of a junior technician employed by the company - Clodoaldo Quintana.

The Golden Eagle E2 prototype having its painted visor fitted. Photo Embraer

Icelandair's phantasmagorical Aurora Borealis livery
posted by Richard Green on 24/01/2017

Icelandair celebrates its 80th anniversary this year and has long punched above its weight in terms of the creativity of its product, marketing and route network. It's added an innovative themed livery onto one of its Boeing 757 aircraft too, with this striking Northern Lights inspired fuselage.

The Aurora Borealis has become big business in recent years, and seeing the spectral phenomenon is on most people's travelling wish list.

The theme appears in the cabin too, where lighting represents the swirling green and blue hues of the Aurora Borealis

How can Icelandair work for you?

Getting to Iceland: unsurprisingly Icelandair has more flights to Iceland than any other airline. It flies from seven UK airports to the capital city of Reykjavik - including Aberdeen, Birmingham, Glasgow, London Heathrow and Stansted, and Manchester - with Belfast starting on the 1st of June. Other European destinations include Barcelona, Paris and Milan, and there are also nonstop flights from Reykjavik to 18 cites in the US and Canada - Boston, New York and Toronto among them - and the two new North American cities for 2017 are Philadelphia (from May 30th) and Tampa (from September 7th).

Crossing the Atlantic: the airline's route network harnesses the country's geographic position in mid Atlantic; and with Reykjavik a 3-4 hour flight from London, Paris or Copenhagen, and a five hour flight from New York, Boston or Washington, the carrier targets passengers crossing the Atlantic from Europe to the USA and vs. vs. In fact Icelandair flies to 44 cities in 16 countries, which is quite something considering that the total population of Iceland is just 330,000. Icelandair fares from the UK to the US and Canada start from £369 return.

Free stopovers: with many airlines it can cost more to make a stopover on the way to your destination, but for many decades now Icelandair won't charge any extra air fare for stopping over for a few days in Iceland either on the way to the US, on the way back, or both, regardless of how cheap the fare you've paid. For some stopover suggestions see Icelandair stopovers

Pro's: using Icelandair across the Atlantic means you can get to destinations that don't have nonstop flights otherwise - like Anchorage, Halifax and Portland heading west, or Bergen, Hamburg and Trondheim travelling east. Plus if you live in Aberdeen, Belfast or Glasgow say, it makes good sense to shorten the journey time and fly via Reykjavik rather than add mileage by flying south to change planes in London.

Crews are helpful and efficient, Reykjavik airport is a pretty stress free place to change planes, and the airline has 16 shiny new Boeing 737 Max's on order. All Icelandair aircraft are fitted with touch screen seat-back in flight entertainment (IFE) screens.

& Cons: for anyone paying discounted economy fares, the airline feels like a low cost carrier these days, especially now that food and drink has to be paid for by economy class passengers - even on the seven hour Reykjavik-Anchorage sector. Economy Comfort and Economy Comfort Special fares do include a free meal, but are pricier. The company had grand plans to renew its fleet until the global financial crisis of 2008 delayed things rather. So the fleet of Boeing 757 aircraft are narrow-body, with a configuration of three-aisle-three and a seat pitch of 32-33 inches, and are getting rather old in the tooth - the oldest aircraft was delivered to Icelandair in 1998. The company also has three Boeing 767-300ER wide body aircraft.

The frequent flyer club: the Saga Club is a good option if you plan to be flying with Icelandair a lot, otherwise its current lack of an affiliated credit card, and few partner airlines, make the scheme of limited use for the general traveller. However you can earn and spend points on Alaska Airlines and Finnair.

Good to know: the airport is 50 kilometres from the capital at Keflavik. It's as near to being cute as an airport can get - with lots of wood in the decor, small and walkable, and lots of natural light. Changing planes here is usually a breeze. The airport express bus service is hourly and costs from ISK 3,900 return. See Keflavik Airport and Airport Express.

A few facts: Icelandair can trace its roots back to 1937, when a forerunner airline based in Akureyri started flight operations with a seaplane. Another forerunner of Icelandair was called Loftleiðir, which became known as 'the hippie airline', thanks to it carrying budget conscious backpacking Americans to Europe throughout the 1970's. There are currently 30 aircraft in the Icelandair fleet, with an average age of 21.2 years.

For further information see Icelandair Aurora livery, Icelandair, and Visit Iceland. And for Icelandair's latest glacier-inspired livery there's My Bathroom Wall

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