Photo: Ray Ally
Taking an early flight out of Beijing airport last week, I caught sight of Air China’s new bird, a beautiful Phoenix, which was taxing across the runway. Now I am no plane spotter and I have never been a bird spotter either, but I was taken in by the striking new livery design.
This new plane was recently delivered, just before a huge 10.1 billion dollars package to supply Air China with 65 new planes begins later this year. It’s a Boeing 737-89L, B-5422, which I know from checking out a great encyclopaedic airplane website. Here you’ll find plane spotters galore have photographed, documented and detailed serial numbers of almost every single plane in the world.
However, my interest in this rare bird is purely aesthetics, as it is a one of a kind, special edition livery. The pattern of the ‘Phoenix and Waves’ adorns the sides and undercarriage of the plane creating a striking and beautiful image. The design has obvious associations with flight and travel, as well a link to Chinese culture and mythology. The legendary Phoenix bird is a symbol of good luck and is suppose to spread auspiciousness and peace wherever it travels.
The inspiration for the design comes from the Air China logo, (you can see on the tailfin) which is also a representation of Phoenix. The logo symbol is made up out of three characters, which make up the word VIP, for very important person. Interestingly, the Chinese name of Air China and the calligraphic characters on the side of the plane were originally written by former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping.
Air China is the country’s national carrier and the world’s 18th largest airline with 176 planes, operating over 5,000 flights per week. In late 2006 it undertook a series of special edition liveries to promote and highlight it’s brand to a global audience. This began with the Olympic Games design; firstly incorporating the Fuwa mascots and then the Olympic Flame Torch Relay design.
Special edition livery’s are becoming more common as airlines look for cost effective ways to build brand awareness without having the huge expense of rebranding whole aircraft fleets. Unfortunately I didn’t get to see this beautiful bird in flight, but Air China’s new Phoenix is definitely rising.