Qantas’ newest jet is a blast from Australia’s aviation past: a factory-fresh Boeing 737-800 painted in a ‘flying kangaroo’ retro-livery from the 1970s.
The RetroRoo jet was unveilled today in Seattle, on the 94th anniversary of Qantas being founded as the Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Service.
The tail includes the iconic winged kangaroo, was adapted from the original 1947 version designed by Gert Sellheim.
But a more noticeable signature element of the livery is the ochre band around the window line of the aircraft.
The colour was chosen to reflect the palette of the Australian outback where Qantas was established in 1920.
In contrast to today's largely white-with-red colour scheme, the underside of the fuselage is painted in grey.
This is a nod to the metallic undercarriage of the Qantas fleet during the lifetime of the original livery.
The ‘back to the future’ effect is completed by the older and fatter Qantas logotype plus the full Qantas Australia branding.
The original 1971–1984 'heritage' livery was created by freelance designer Harry Rogers, and included this unique typefrace created by Rogers for the project and called Cyclone.
The plane itself is Qantas' 75th Boeing 737-800 and named James Strong in honour of the former Qantas CEO who passed away in 2013.
Welcoming the RetroRoo
Qantas ambassador, pilot and aviation enthusiast John Travolta attended the unveilling and said the retro livery brought back plenty of memories for him.
“It’s great to see a piece of Qantas history flying in the sky today,” Travolta said. “I have enjoyed many wonderful experiences with Qantas over the years, from getting my 747 wings to having my own 707 painted in the original 1960s Qantas livery."
"This is a great celebration of the brand’s heritage and incredible reputation over the years."
Travolta was joined by Qantas cabin crew wearing the bright uniforms of the era designed by Emilio Pucci.
We have to admit, the newest Qantas kit cut by Martin Grant doesn't look at all out of place next to this 40 year old livery.
That alone is testament to the brilliance of Grant's design, which carefully references those 'golden olden days' of flying with the uniform's jaunty trilby cap, trenchcoat and scarf.
“It’s a bit of a time warp having a 1970s livery on one of our brand new Boeing 737 aircraft" observed Qantas Group Executive for Brand, Marketing and Corporate Affairs, Olivia Wirth, "but it’s the perfect way to highlight the years of experience behind the contemporary airline Qantas is today."
“Qantas holds a special place in the Australian psyche, and we know for many of our customers this livery will inspire a fond trip down memory lane."
Recreating the retro livery
The original livery dressed jets from 1971 to 1984, including Qantas’ first Boeing 747 jumbo jet.
Qantas used this as the reference for the RetroRoo, recreating the original colours by matching specifications from drawings held in the Qantas Heritage Collection to colour samples held by Boeing.
It took Boeing three days to paint the retro livery, which incorporates eight different colours.
The airline says this paintjob from the past will serve as "a tribute to 70 years of its iconic kangaroo logo.”
The story of the flying kangaroo…
Although Qantas has been flying for a staggering 94 years, the kangaroo has been part of the airline’s brand for only 70 years.
The original kangaroo symbol was initially painted beneath the cockpit of Qantas’ first Liberator aircraft in 1944 – and it was engineers, not marketing people (that breed had yet to be invented) who drew the roo, following Qantas’ decision to christen its London-bound flights as the Kangaroo Service.
Their model was found in the pockets of the engineer’s overalls – the rear of the Australian one penny coin.
Just a few years on, in 1947, the roo gained his wings with the introduction of Qantas’ Lockheed L749 Constellation fleet (the first Qantas aircraft to fly all the way to London with a Qantas crew).
But in 1984 the roo had his wings clipped as he morphed into a more slender, stylised form.
Now, on just one of Qantas’ 308 aircraft – if ironically the very newest member of the fleet – the famous ‘flying kangaroo’ is back, and will begin flying on domestic Qantas routes from this Thursday November 20th.
Click here to download the full hi-res version of the new Qantas Boeing 737-800 dressed in its Flying Kangaroo livery [7.8MB JPEG file]
David Flynn travelled to Seattle as a guest of Qantas and Boeing.
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About David Flynn
David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.