Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Searching for.....the story on special schemes

One of the more interesting sides of spotting and photography is the search for those special schemes that airlines have out there. What is a special scheme for a spotter/photographer - very simply put (and this is my definition :) ), it's a color scheme on an aircraft that isn't in the normal color scheme of the airline. These special scheme can range from something simple like affiliation to an alliance like Star Alliance (as shown below on a US Airways B757), SkyTeam or oneWorld to a specific scheme that an airline paints on a plane to honor a special place (as shown below the Star Alliance - Southwest's Shamu honoring SeaWorld).

Some airlines honor sports teams like US Airways with their series of NFL teams that are located at their hub airports - Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers and Carolina Panthers (shown below)

Southwest, apart from the Shamu planes, has a great deal of other special schemes, honoring states (as shown below with the Arizona One aircraft), but they take special schemes a lot further. They have Silver One which represents their 25th anniversary and others in totally special paint schemes. However, they also name the standard Canyon Blue and Yellow color schemes with names on the planes - such as the "Nolan Ryan Express" which honors that great baseball pitcher, a decal honoring the Tuskegee airmen, the "Southwest Classic" decal that bears the registration honoring executive Colleen Barrett and things like "Adopt-A-Pilot" decals. That's the one thing about spotting Southwest - you never know what will come in and if it isn't an obvious scheme - only when they get close will you see lettering on the nose and the camera has to come out quickly.

One deviation from the "special" scheme aircraft is Frontier. What makes them so unique is that every tail on all of their aircraft is painted with different animals (as shown below with the Walrus scheme). It makes it very interesting to catch them because of the diversity of the schemes. However, you can make sure you don't go running out for each Frontier flight. A novel innovation on their web site Frontier Airlines is when you track the status of the flight, they will show the tail scheme that is meant to be operating that flight. Very rarely is it wrong - a little spotters trick I found out about!.

There are three other types of special schemes that I want to touch om. The first is one that I think is close to a lot of people's hearts and those are the schemes that honor special causes. Delta, American and Quantaslink (you'll have to go to Australia to get this one) have honored the Susan G. Komen Foundation with different breast cancer awareness schemes. The first to do this was Delta with a pink Song aircraft that with the demise of Song became pink Delta, or as she is known in our family, Pinky. For the longest time, this was the top of my hit list of special schemes until one very special day at Palm Beach International when I caught her.

American have pink sashes on several different aircraft types and they are always a prized catch. American has followed another cause of the soldiers serving overseas with a lone Boeing 757 with yellow ribbon on the tail. Delta also has a single Boeing 767-300 honoring Habitat for Humanity.

Next, there are the alliance schemes - I noted above with the US Airways Boeing 757 in Star Alliance. All the members of the alliance have at least one aircraft in this color scheme and they are always a great catch to get. Next was oneWorld with a single title on the aircraft of members of this alliance. American has gone a little further with this and have a glorious paint scheme for oneWorld on a Boeing 777 (N791AN), although I have heard this scheme is going to go on a few other different aircraft types. The last of the alliances to get scheme planes has been SkyTeam. Delta's first aircraft was a Boeing 767-400 (N844MH). I'm not sure if the scheme is going to go on any of their other types - I can only hope because N844MH only seems to be on international routes and if you can't get to JFK or Atlanta, you won't catch her. Continental is due to join Star Alliance last this year - I only hope they paint different types with a Star Alliance scheme.

The final type of special schemes that I want to note is the retro schemes. Airlines have been absorbed into other airlines, or old schemes seem to be a favorite. A large number of the worlds airlines have started to introduce retro schemes. US Airways have some of the airlines that were absorbed over the years, PSA, Allegheny and Piedmont (shown below).

American also has a Boeing 737 in retro Astrojet colors that is a great catch. It's rumored that Continental is going to paint 4 B737-900's in retro colors - I hope that going to be a reality as I'd love to get those in my collection,

Hopefully that gives a little insight into the special schemes that daily ply the skies - they are rare to catch, and when you do get them, it makes it some much more special.

Weather is still a bit of a downer at the moment - FLL has been mainly cloudy. Hopefully, it will get a little better over the next few weeks. Another week behind the camera lens over....

1 comment:

Tim G in MN said...

Thanks for the "primer" on special paint schemes Mark! I remember reading that at one point some airlines were shunning paint completely to save weight and fuel. Maybe it was NWA a few years back. I wonder if the value of marketing has won out over efficiency?

I'm kind of new to your blog and plane spotting. Enjoying your site.

Tim G in MN