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Aircraft livery

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Title: Aircraft livery  
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Subject: British European Airways, Channel Airways, Nose art, South African Airways, China Airlines
Collection: Aircraft Markings, Aviation Media, Graphic Design
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Aircraft livery

Douglas DC-8 of Overseas National Airways in its tribute to the U.S.A.'s Bicentennial Commemorative livery at Zurich in 1975
SkyWest Airlines celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2007. Notice the red and blue nontraditional "wavy" cheatline along the fuselage compared to the more traditional linear cheatline of American Eagle regional jet in the background.

An aircraft livery is a paint scheme applied to an aircraft, generally to fuselage, wings, empennage (tail fin), or jet engines. To promote their brand, airlines typically use a standard livery, prominently displaying their logo or name, that is applied to all or most of their fleet. Special liveries are used in certain circumstances, such as significant anniversaries for an airline or as part of a marketing agreement. Government and military aircraft also have liveries. The term is derived from the more general term livery.


  • Airline liveries 1
    • Standard airline liveries 1.1
      • Bare metal 1.1.1
      • Cheatline 1.1.2
      • Billboard 1.1.3
      • Jelly bean 1.1.4
    • Specialized airline liveries 1.2
      • Commemorative 1.2.1
      • Heritage 1.2.2
      • Logo 1.2.3
    • Other Air marketing liveries 1.3
      • Alliance brands 1.3.1
      • Regional brands 1.3.2
  • Non airline liveries 2
    • Government 2.1
    • Military 2.2
  • See also 3
  • References 4

Airline liveries

Standard airline liveries

Bare metal

A Douglas DC-3 in a bare metal fuselage livery

Bare metal aircraft liveries are somewhat ubiquitous with the advances to aircraft technology during the 1930s and the tremendous sales success of the Douglas DC-3. What has often been called one of the first modern airliners which could actually turn a meaningful profit for airlines, the Douglas DC-3's sleek and shiny aluminum fuselage wings and body represented the latest in streamlining aircraft for increased speeds; this came at a time when many aircraft were still fabricated out of wood and canvas. Correspondingly, companies like Eastern Air Lines, Delta Air Lines, and American Airlines (now very well known for its distinctive bare-metal liveries) chose to leave their aircraft unpainted as a clear sign they operated the speediest and most up to date fleets. During more recent times others such as Air Canada, US Airways, Western Airlines, Pan Am, Aeromexico, Jat Airways, Northwest Airlines, and Cathay Pacific also maintained unpainted airplanes along significant portions of their histories.

Among some advantages of not painting aircraft surfaces, this type of paint scheme reduces weight and therefore results in fuel savings; however, some analysts estimate that the extra cost to maintain and polish a bare metal scheme outweighs the fuel saving benefits.[1]


A British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) VC10 with a cheatline running the length of the fuselage.

A cheatline is decorative, horizontal, single or multiple, bands of color applied to both sides of a fuselage. Historically, the cheatline was located at or just below an aircraft's window line. However, in more recent times the cheatline has migrated and increasingly has become less laterally based.


A Pan Am A310 with billboard livery titles

With the introduction of wide body aircraft, a new form of livery also came about called the billboard livery. With billboard liveries the actual name of the airline became the unique and main feature of an airlines fuselage livery. By abandoning the cheatline that had traditionally run the length of the aircraft along the windowline; billboard liveries dropped the window cheatline colors and extended the name of the airlines titles above as well as below the window line in a much larger script. Among some of the airline pioneers who adopted this style of airline livery, were Union de Transports Aériens (UTA) and Pan Am along with AVENSA. Other notable airlines who dropped the traditional cheatline earlier than others were Hughes Airwest after the Hughes Airwest Flight 706 disaster and those that adopted billboard titles upon solid colored fuselages, such as Braniff with their 747SPs, Muse Air along their McDonnell Douglas aircraft, and Frontier Airlines along their Airbus aircraft. In recent years, two of the three main airline alliances have uniquely adopted billboard titling for their advertising branding and joint airline liveries.

Jelly bean

A PLUNA Bombardier CRJ900 with a Jelly Bean livery

These liveries are characterized by the vertical stabilizer and sometimes aft fuselage being painted in multiple designs.

The most notable jelly bean livery used among North America airlines is the design concept introduced by Braniff International Airlines in November 1965, as part of their "End of the Plain Plane" campaign: there were 7 different, solid-colored schemes featuring pastel colors on the fuselage, white wings and tail, and formal black titles and nose.

A slight variant of the jelly bean concept is the "jelly tails" of JetBlue Airways, Mexicana, Frontier Airlines, and Air-India Express. British Airways' short lived Newell and Sorrell World Tails design featured jelly bean liveries. PLUNA of Uruguay is one of the most recent airlines to adopt this attractive and colorful corporate imagery.

Specialized airline liveries


ATA Airlines Boeing 757-200 and 727-200 in the 25th commemorative anniversary livery
South African Airways Boeing 747-300 Ndizani

Commemorative liveries are used to celebrate a milestone in an airline's history history, including anniversaries.

One such example would be American Trans Air,[2] or SkyWest Airlines paint scheme used to commemorate the 30th anniversary of that airline.

South African Airways had one of their Boeing 747-300s specially painted in rainbow colors to transport the South African Olympic team to the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia. The aircraft was fondly dubbed the Ndizani.


Garuda Indonesia Boeing 737-800 retro/heritage livery

A heritage livery is a livery that an airline has used in the past (apart from any modern livery used by an airline). Some airlines use these as a one off paint scheme applied to only one or two aircraft in their current fleet, as a tribute to their past.

Airlines often apply and paint specialized liveries to their standard airline liveries and logos of their aircraft, examples being:

Alaska Airlines added a Hawaiian Lei to its Boeing 737 aircraft
  • a logo when used for charter service; sports teams and touring rock bands are common examples
  • a logo of a prominent charity, when the airline and charity have a partnership
  • images of a city, usually a hub or other city of importance to the airline
  • advertising for a company (logojet)

Southwest Airlines is famous for its various liveries promoting Sea World (painted to resemble an Orca), various US states where Southwest has operations (painted to resemble the states' flags), and other entities such as the NBA and the Ronald McDonald House.

Other Air marketing liveries

Alliance brands

Alliance liveries
A Scandinavian Airlines McDonnell Douglas MD-81 in Star Alliance livery. Normally this livery features the airline's logo underneath the Star Alliance title
Boeing 777-200ER (N791AN), in the new standard Oneworld livery

Three multinational worldwide airline alliances have grown and developed their own aircraft liveries and corporate identities which encompass and transcend major carriers, mainline carriers, legacy carriers, and flag airlines' individual airline identities along with any ties to regional, geopolitical, national boundaries, and government heritages.

Oneworld, SkyTeam, and Star Alliance are the mutually agreed upon "airline alliance liveries" of large numbers of independent and separately owned airlines working together as one through a system of codeshare agreements, rather than the colors of any one certificated airline.

Unlike the other airline alliance consortium members, Oneworld will retain the "jellytail" airline logo markings of their individual airline alliance partner members upon each member airline's vertical stabilizer.

Regional brands

Similar in terms of how multiple different airlines fly aircraft in full branding of standard OneWorld, SkyTeam, and Star Alliance liveries, in the United States along with many other parts of the world, large airlines often operate in association with other airlines which operate much smaller regional airliners so smaller communities are linked to an airlines large airline hub.

An AmericanConnection Embraer ERJ-140 operated by Chautauqua Airlines

To promote and offer air travelers with what appears as a "seamless" association with a much larger more prominent, well known, and publically perceived as "more safe" major, mainline, legacy, discount, or flag carrier, airline; North American airlines have developed a system of affiliate air carriers.

These feeder airlines which operate aircraft such as the regional jets and other types of smaller utility air-taxi type aircraft, painted to mimmick the well known airline; often carry the names Airlink, Connection, Eagle or Express, next to the traditional network airlines highly regarded branding or name.

A recent trend, in North America is for the regional airline d/b/a Express, Eagle, or Connection, is to operate the aircraft in full mainline airline markings, leaving the operating regional airlines name in only very small letters, close to the forward entry door. Such brandings noted to cause confusion among travelers, as in the case of Colgan Air Continental Express flight disaster, often stimulate added confusion when operations do not go as planned due to inclimate weather and other acts of god, and the ensuing fee changes during rebooking, or other ticketing.

Non airline liveries


Air transports of heads of state and government are often painted in unique color schemes. The US President's aircraft, Air Force One, uses a light-blue and sky-blue color scheme, with the Seal of the President of the United States just above the front gear and the flag of the United States on the tailfin designed by French-American industrial designer Raymond Loewy.[3]

An aircraft used to transport state or government leaders is often painted in a livery that represents national colors of a country or colors of a particular government office, and most of the time is coordinated with a flag, seal, and other insignia.


A Ukrainian Su-25 painted with earth colors on the top and sky color on the bottom

Military aircraft often make use of aircraft camouflage to make the aircraft more difficult to see in the air and on the ground. This form of camouflage makes use of light and color patterns, and is dependent upon environmental conditions and is mainly effective against human observers, though some electronic visual acquisition systems can be affected. Visual camouflage does not protect an aircraft against radar location or heat-seeking electronics.

Since the release of MIL-STD-2161 in 1993, the US Navy's tactical aircraft use a color scheme designed to reduce visual detection that consists of shades of flat gray with exterior markings applied in a contrasting shade of gray.[4] Note that the stated purpose of this document is to standardize paint schemes and application of naval insignia and markings.

Aircraft camouflage was first used during World War I and was employed extensively during the first half of World War II. After radar detection systems were developed, aircraft camouflage became less important to the Allies, and a number of late-war Allied aircraft were brought to battle with no camouflage. Subsequent camouflage schemes, when used, concentrated on hiding the aircraft from aerial observation while it was resting on or flying near the ground, or they used a light, neutral color to inhibit detection while in the air. Modern camouflage schemes have experimented with light-emitting active camouflage systems which seek to conceal the aircraft from human vision or to blur or confuse optical observation by electronic means.[5]

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ N772AT Priceless Memories
  3. ^ Walsh, Kenneth T. Air Force One: A History of the Presidents and Their Planes. New York: Hyperion: 2003. ISBN 1-4013-0004-9.
  4. ^ "Department of Defense Standard Practice: Paint Schemes and Markings for U.S. Navy and Marine Corp Aircraft"MIL-STD-2161A, (PDF). United States Navy. 1 May 1993. 
  5. ^ Shaw, Robert (1985). Fighter combat: tactics and maneuvering. Naval Institute Press. p. 55.  
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