February 20, 2019.   Olde Tyme Colours.

Photo courtesy of Mark Szemberski.

If you’re like me, and the palette of modern-day airline liveries brings you to the point of nausea, here’s some relief. Take three deep breaths and feast your eyes on this British Airways 747. As part of its one-hundreth birthday celebration, BA has repainted one its Boeing 747-400s in vintage BOAC colors. This one rivals Lufthansa’s similar 747 as the best of the many retro schemes out there. It’s gorgeous.

Notice the way the fuselage stripe, or “cheatline,” expands as it curves below the nose. I don’t know if there’s a name for this particular flourish, but I’ve always loved it and wish more carriers used it. TAP’s (Air Portugal) 1970s-era livery had a nose like that, in red, that was exceptionally pretty.

This specific plane, registered G-BYGC, will keep the BOAC uniform until its scheduled retirement in 2023. BOAC (British Overseas Airways Corporation) was formed in 1939. In 1974 it merged with British European Airways (BEA) to form today’s British Airways. The delta-winged symbol on the tail, which dates back to Imperial Airways, one of BOAC’s forerunners, is nicknamed the “Speedbird.” This is where BA’s radio call sign comes from.

Speaking of long-lost abbreviations, if you’re thinking you’ve heard the name BOAC but can’t remember where, try singing it. It’s immortalized in the Beatles song, “Back in the USSR.”

Photo courtesy of Misael Hernandez.

A BOAC 747-100, circa 1972.

Of all the novelty paint jobs crowding the taxiways, these retro schemes are probably the most welcome, if at times a little depressing. Not all of them are attractive, but the better ones remind us how good airline liveries used to be, in painful contrast to today’s overwrought, swoosh-obsessed designs.


Related Stories:


Back to the Ask the Pilot Home Page Visit the Blog Archive Back to Top!