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Qantas reveals ‘flying kangaroo’ livery on Boeing 737

By David Flynn     Filed under: qantas

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.

Read: Where you can see Qantas' Boeing 737 in retro 'Flying Kangaroo' livery

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.

Follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter: we're @AusBT


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.


Have something to say? Post a comment now!

1 on 8/10/14 by deany83

What a great idea, can't wait to see what it looks like.

2 on 8/10/14 by Wezza

Wish it was going in a 747!

1 on 8/10/14 by RK

To be fair, I think this will look great on a 737. The Boeing 707 which along with the 747-200 had this livery on it shares a similar shape to the 737. That's not to say it wouldn't look equally as good on a 747!

1 on 11/11/14 by Wezza

After seeing the pics, I have to say it looks brilliant on the 737 too.

3 on 8/10/14 by Warren

Will be fantastic to see the wings back on the kangaroo on a Qantas aircraft. Love the retro livery. A bit of nostalgia these days goes a long way. Good on you Qantas !.

4 on 8/10/14 by RK

This is fantastic, a great move by Qantas. Probably a bit of a pipe dream, but I think it would be nice if Qantas also applied a retro livery form the TAA/Australian Airlines days. This would be a nice tribute to the domestic arm Qantas merged with in 1993.

5 on 8/10/14 by Jon W

Hopefully they'll bring back the retro frequent flyer scheme too!

6 on 8/10/14 by Jason

Pity it is not a TAA retro which was the domestic airline in Australia - I think introduced the 737-400 to Australia

1 on 9/10/14 by RK

Technically it was Australian Airlines by that stage. But I agree, an Australian Airlines (with the blue 'roo) retro livery would look fantastic on a 737. Or perhaps the TAA 'camel hump' livery on one of the A330's? This livery was on the A300's so would look spot on.

1 on 6/11/14 by abudhabi1

I agree.The later Australian Scheme that made it onto the 727's and 737'S PLUS THE A300 plus all the regional planes from 1986 to 1993 would have also been a good choice for an old fashioned retro look.I think it was only the DC9's that stayed in the Camel Hump colors.

7 on 8/10/14 by eminere

Very cool.

8 on 8/10/14 by Flyman

Love it. Will be great to see

1 on 10/10/14 by Darkavid99

Looks better than the current Roo!

9 on 4/11/14 by Patrick

I wander what an A380 would look like in this livery.

10 on 5/11/14 by iamwill

An A380 will be just as butt ugly in any livery.

1 on 10/11/14 by hutch

I'm in the minority.... I find the A380 very appealing

11 on 10/11/14 by RK

Love it. I wish they would repaint the entire fleet this way. The Flying 'Roo should never have had its wings clipped back in the 1980's!

12 on 10/11/14 by TheRealBabushka

Love that colour scheme!!!

I'm almost hoping Austin Powers would pop out from the cabin!

1 on 10/11/14 by David

"Yeah baby!"

13 on 10/11/14 by tonedoggy99

Looks awesome! Can't wait to see it in the flesh.

14 on 10/11/14 by eminere

Looks fantastic.

15 on 10/11/14 by planemad

Look's absolutley amazing!!!

16 on 10/11/14 by rohannathan

This is so cool!

17 on 10/11/14 by E63AMG

Looks simply awesome, takes you back to another era, well done QF.

18 on 10/11/14 by DK

Awesome! About time, wonder which airline could be next to follow?

1 on 10/11/14 by qfflyer

Virgin could do a 'retro' Virgin Blue !!

19 on 10/11/14 by Alex

Olivia seems on a roll.....seems like a great addition to the QF team. I also think this scheme amazing!

1 on 12/11/14 by skystar

Why should Olivia receive the credit for the retro scheme.Some dedicated employees might have had an input and suggested the retro design.

20 on 10/11/14 by theduk

Looks great! What memories. I agree with the idea of an Australian retro paint on a 737 as well. Well done Qantas.

21 on 10/11/14 by therealqueen


22 on 10/11/14 by therealqueen

Now dress the crew in the retro uniforms and serve all sorts of crazy '70s catering.

1 on 11/11/14 by abudhabi1

That would be nice.Although Qantas was not a domestic carrier in the 80's I do remember as a kid on TAA The Sandwiches they gave me and my brother to take with us from the plane a couple of times on the refreshment flights.It was a lot better than some of the things they have now.In fact I rely on a bakery that does these things every time I fly Virgin now.

23 on 11/11/14 by UpUpAndAway

Hopefully the old fashion service comes back as well, and the food and the cockpit door being left open.

24 on 12/11/14 by Travelator

Love the look!

None of the photos I have seen on this new aircraft include the winglets which is a shame

25 on 12/11/14 by bmk

Looks fab,pity they didn't stay with that over the years as better that current design, refined classy... but in saying that Qantas have had many different paint jobs and uniforms changes and it costs megga bucks for each one.. How many paint designs and uniform revamps have Singapore Airlines had since the days of MSA. Cosmetic changes do not creat a better airline 

Great to see it name after Mr Strong   He is the best CEO's Qantas has had in many many many along years.

1 on 17/11/14 by DB

I'm sorry but I think the old retro livery is not better than the current livery.  I much prefer the current design. Its fresh, modern, and recognised the world over. That's just my personal opinion. 

26 on 13/11/14 by Craig

I'd like to see Qantas lease a 747-8 to do the Dallas - Syd run in conjunction with the A380. Have the 747-8 in the Retro livery and the A380 as is...

27 on 17/11/14 by aggie57

It looks great!

Readers may also be interested to know that the coin connection also played out for the New Zealand Air Force, as the Kiwi on their 20-cent  piece was used at the basis of the Kiwi inside the RNZAF roundals we see today. 

28 on 17/11/14 by reeves35

[quote]The original livery dressed jets from 1971 to 1984, including Qantas’ first Boeing 747-400.[/quote]

Qantas got irs first 744 in 1988.  They were never in this classic livery.  The only aircraft to appear in this livery were the 742, the 747SP and the 707.

1 on 17/11/14 by mitchimus

Think you might need to read the article more carefully reeves35. The article was correct add it says "...including Qantas' first Boeing 747 jumbo jet"  not 747-400.  

I love the look of the retro livery.

29 on 21/11/14 by Ron

Along with the livery, go back to Qantas service as it was then when the current flight attendants were young and enthusiastic, and bring back the CEO and Board from that era. Even if some are no longer with us, they would still do a better job.

1 on 2/12/14 by Hugo

You wanna bring back the prices too? Ah, the days when the cheapest way from SYD to MEL was via AKL.


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