Flight Plan

Giving wings to names

| Updated on January 09, 2018

Naming an aircraft is not just fun. There is history and reason to it too. Ashwini Phadnis writes

KamaScootra, Scootalicious, Big Yella Fella, Dream Start and Dikke Dirk. Confused? These are some of the names, including a few quirky ones, that airlines give to their aircraft. Yes, that’s right. Aircraft do have names.

Regular flyers might remember the type of aircraft they flew in; whether it was an Airbus A-320 or a Boeing 787. But few will be able to tell if they flew on Miss Moneypenny or Turmeric? Disagreeing with ‘what’s in a name?,’ many global airlines spend a lot of time choosing names for their aircraft. SpiceJet for instance, decided to name its aircraft after Indian spices for its re-launch.

Virgin Atlantic’s aircraft, on the other hand, carry ‘flying lady’ as part of the livery. Many a time, the name is written below the cockpit.

“Each aircraft tends to have a female name that embodies our brand value,” Virgin’s spokesperson said. “The names are usually timeless or classic and are chosen to stand the test of time.”

Virgin aircraft are called Ladybird, Hotlips, Mustang Sally, Pretty Woman, Queen of the Skies and even Miss Moneypenny after the James Bond character.

Airlines have different reasons for naming their aircraft. While some showcase aspects of the home country, others use it to highlight the places the airline flies to. Yet others want the names to be an extension of the airline’s image.

A tradition

Naming aircraft is an old practice. Way back in 1925, KLM, the Royal Dutch Airline, named its first aircraft ‘Dikke Dirk’ (Fat Dirk) as the aircraft did have an unusually broad waistline. However, the name had more to do with the last letters of its registration: DD. Since then the airline has named its Airbus 330-200s after city squares; the Boeing 737-800s are named after birds and its Boeing 747-400s are named after world capitals. The Dreamliner Boeing 787-9 aircraft, which KLM uses on its Indian routes, are named after flowers, while the Boeing 777 in its fleet is named after world heritage sites.

Closer home, when Air India got the Boeing 747, it decided to name the aircraft after Indian emperors while the smaller aircraft were named after rivers.

Then in 2006, when it ordered the Dreamliner Boeing 787 fleet it decided to name the aircraft after Indian states; the first was called Andhra Pradesh.

Australian airline Qantas organised a contest to find appropriate names for its eight Boeing 787 aircraft. More than 60,000 suggestions poured in. Incidentally, the Australian public was just carrying forward a decades-old tradition — in the 1920s, three of the airline’s initial aircraft were given mythical names Perseus, Pegasus and Iris. The tradition continues even now with the 12 Airbus A380 in its fleet named after pioneering figures of Australian aviation such as Nancy Bird-Walton, who became the first female commercial pilot.

For German airline Lufthansa, the tradition of naming aircraft after a German state or city goes back to September 1960, when it baptised its first long haul Boeing 707, Berlin.

“The aircraft’s Godfather was Willy Brandt, the Mayor of Berlin at that time. Since then around 300 Lufthansa aircraft have been baptised with names of German cities and towns,” a spokesman for the airline said.

In gratitude

Sometimes an event triggers a name. As a token of gratitude to the people of Halifax in Canada who took care of the crew stranded there after the US airspace was shut following 9/11, Lufthansa decided to baptise one of its Airbus A-340-300 aircraft Gander Halifax. This was the first time that Lufthansa used a foreign city’s name.

Virgin Atlantic, on the other hand, decided to call its aircraft Indian Princess to celebrate the launch of its non-stop flight to India.

Some airlines opt for names that project their image. So SpiceJet thought that naming its aircraft after Indian spices was appropriate. The airline today has aircraft called coriander, chilly, turmeric, red chilli, mustard, pepper and heeng.

Singapore-based airline Scoot, which also flies to India, named its Boeing 787 that flies to Chennai, KamaScootra. Company officials say the names of the aircraft are in keeping with the fun, quirky and youthful image of the airline.

Some of the other names that the airline uses are Scootalicious, Big Yella Fella and Dream Start. The airline does social media crowd-sourcing to resonate the pulse of the target audience.

Further, as Scoot and Tigerair have merged, all of the A320-family aircraft previously operated by Tigerair will also be named, starting with Conscious Coupling to commemorate the merger.

Now how’s that for a name?

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Published on October 31, 2017
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