Saturday, 23 November 2013

The Tales On The Tails

Dogs do it, foxes do it and the peacock does it too! But commercial aircraft do it all the time! Holding the tail proudly upright is the integral identity of every self-respecting aircraft, but commercial planes seem to do it with the most gaudy abandon. The aircraft come in various colours and designs, but they almost always carry the logo of the airline on their erect tail-fins. Some of these logos look familiar and some are amusing, while others can be downright weird and mystifying! It can be fun tracing the tales told by these tails. I was flipping through my name-card holder the other day, and came across numerous interesting airline emblems.

Birds are the most common symbol chosen by airlines for their logo. Some, like Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Air Macau, Ukraine International, Shangdong Airlines of China and Amber Air of Lithuania have highly-stylised graphic avian depictions while many others opt for more recognizable presentations. China Eastern has a swallow in flight, while its partner China Yunnan has the lovely peacock found in that province. .China Xinhua has what looks like a dove just taking off, but the graphic depiction is clever because it also resembles a hand waving in greeting. Xiamen Airlines has a graceful crane in flight, while the former Xinjiang Airlines had its bird symbol elegantly flying past a crescent moon to denote its Islamic identity.

Air Niugini of Papua New Guinea and Air Paradise of Bali both share the exotic Bird-Of-Paradise, while Cebu Pacific carries a stylised head of the Philippine Eagle. The flag-carriers of island nations such as Air Mauritius and Air Seychelles have a long-winged seabird that can stay in flight over the sea for months at a time. Condor of Germany, Air Merlin Eurojet of Essex and Kingfisher Airlines of India simply carry the birds they are named for although the German carrier’s logo could also be interpreted as an aeroplane. By contrast, the Indian carrier dispensed with any graphic design and opted for a full-colour photo-realistic illustration of a Common Kingfisher. Another airline with a realistic illustration of a bird as its logo is Highland Airways of Scotland which carries the local eagle.

The most unique bird-logo in the airline world must surely belong to Thailand’s Nok Air, which simply shows a cartoon version of a duck’s beak! I haven’t figured out the meaning, but it really looks cute – and different.
Many airlines opt for mythical birds and beasts such as the griffin and the phoenix. Egypt Air, PB Air of Thailand, Myanmar Airways International, Austria’s Styrian Spirit, and Garuda Indonesia are examples of airlines whose aircraft tail-fins bear creatures of their local legends. In this category, dragons are a favourite, especially in Asia. Apart from the obviously-named Dragonair of Hongkong, the former First Cambodia Airlines and Druk Air of Bhutan are among those who sport the dragon on their livery. Yangon Airways is the only airline I know of that actually depicts a flying elephant! Ironically, there isn’t a single Jumbo Jet in their fleet.

Animals are also featured quite regularly on the tails of commercial aircraft. Quantas has the Kangaroo, Qatar Airways has the Ibex, and Tiger Air of Singapore has a leaping tiger that looks suspiciously like the one on the old Malayan Airways aircraft. The former Vision Air of Borneo had an attractive symbol of a horse, simply because the owner had a passion for horses! People are rarely featured on airline tail-fins, but AeroMexico has a proud-looking Aztec warrior while Hawaiian Airlines has a winsome wahine with flowers in her hair.

Plants are another favourite choice for airline emblems, and the most famous of these could be AerLingus with the legendary Irish four-leaf clover in an evocative shade of green. In a similar vein, Air Canada carries the national emblem of a maple leaf. Tourism-focussed companies Atlantic Express Airlines and Andaman Airlines both show a palm-tree by the seaside. Vietnam Airlines has a golden lotus-flower while Lao Airlines carries a charming depiction of a local flower, too. China Airlines of Taiwan has a full-colour representation of the cherry blossom, an auspicious spring flower throughout the Orient.

American companies might think the world is their oyster, judging from the popularity of the globe on their carriers. Both the iconic Pan American World Airlines (PanAm) and Trans World Airlines (TWA) had depictions of the globe, but they both went bankrupt. Today, Continental Airlines proudly presents a strong globe logo on its aircraft tail-fins, and we wish it a much more prosperous future than its former competitors.

National flag-carriers such as Royal Brunei Airlines and Saudi Arabian Airlines carry very formal and intricate national crests. Unusual airline emblems include Oman Air’s traditional and lethal-looking dagger, the Maltese Cross of Air Malta, Philippines Airline’s cheerful sunburst, Mandala Airlines of Indonesia’s prayer-wheel, and in sharp contrast, the garish word “Virgin” by all the carriers in the Virgin group. If you have ever visited the eastern state of Kelantan in Malaysia and watched the graceful giant traditional kites called wau in action, you would really appreciate the unique identity of Malaysia Airlines – the only airline I know of that carries a kite on its aircraft tail-fins. Now, you can actually tell someone to “go fly a kite!”

Pix by oneworld and SkyTeam

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