A classic TWA livery on an American Airlines Boeing 737 - Photo: American Airlines

A classic TWA livery on an American Airlines Boeing 737 – Photo: American Airlines

It seems this was quite the week for a few airlines to show off some very cool retro liveries. We have American showing off their TWA scheme, PIA shows off a classic look, and Qantas has their Retro Roo II livery. They say things come in threes; it looks like airlines really came through on this one.

It is always great when airlines put out retro liveries, but it can be a bit odd (and cool) to see these liveries on different aircraft types that never previously saw those schemes. We take a closer look at these new (old) designs, and the aircraft they are on.

Qantas Airlines Retro Livery

The Retro Roo II livery on a 737 - Photo: Qantas Airlines

The Retro Roo II livery on a 737 – Photo: Qantas Airlines

It is just fun saying “Retro Roo II.” Try it… I will wait…

Qantas revealed this retro livery to celebrate their 95th anniversary, and it is one of the classics.

The livery seen on a Boeing 707 (VH-EBA Qantas "City of Melbourne") taken in 1960 - Photo: Bob Garrard

The livery seen on a Boeing 707 (VH-EBA Qantas “City of Melbourne”) taken in 1960, with special 40th anniversary logo on the tail – Photo: Bob Garrard

I have a hard time seeing this livery without thinking about it on the Boeing 707, on which it was used from 1959 to 1961.

Qantas was the first airline outside the United States to operate the 707, so at the time, the combination was a pretty big deal to the airline and to Australia.

The big difference is the lack of the polished metal belly, but still is quite true to the original design.

A Qantas Boeing 737-800 painted in retro livery - Photo: Qantas Airlines

A Qantas Boeing 737-800 painted in retro livery – Photo: Qantas Airlines

This is the second Qantas 737 to sport a retro livery — a year ago, the airline showed off their livery that was seen from 1971 to 1984.

American Airlines Retro Liveries

TWA livery tail - Photo: American Airlines

TWA livery tail – Photo: American Airlines

American Airlines has taken over the tradition of US Airways in featuring “heritage liveries” (that is the wording they use instead of “retro livery”). They have been great eye candy for AvGeeks, and this week, AA has shown off probably the most iconic livery, that of Trans World Airlines (TWA).

A TWA L1011 - Photo: Bob Garrard

A TWA L-1011 – Photo: Bob Garrard

Although the Boeing 707 might be the aircraft that many visualize with this livery, I have always thought of the L-1011. I think the hardest part, visually, for American is they have the retro liveries, but still keep their “American” titles.

Reno Air livery on a Boeing 737-800 - Photo: American Airlines

Reno Air livery on a Boeing 737-800 – Photo: American Airlines

The Reno Air heritage livery wasn’t revealed this week (earlier in the month), but I still wanted to show it off.  This livery has a special place in my heart!

A Reno Air MD-82 (N822RA) taken in 1995 - Photo: Aero Icarus | FlickrCC

A Reno Air MD-82 (N822RA) taken in 1995 – Photo: Aero Icarus | FlickrCC

My dad used to live outside of Reno and I would often fly from Seattle to Reno on the airline. All those flights, and being at the airport, helped my passion for airlines to grow.

As mentioned earlier, I think this livery looks a bit weird, since the “RENO Air” titles were a big part of the design, but now has the smaller American titles.

Pakistan International Airlines Retro Livery

- Photo: Pakistan International Airline

PIA’s 777-200ER in retro livery – Photo: Pakistan International Airlines

Pakistan International also recently showed off a Boeing 777-200ER (AP-BMG) with a classic livery. The design was flown by the airline during the 1960s.

The livery seen on a Boeing 720 (AP-AMG), taken in 1964 - Photo: Ken Fielding

The livery seen on a Boeing 720 (AP-AMG), taken in 1964 – Photo: Ken Fielding

Love for the Retro Liveries

I always love seeing when an airline shows off a retro livery, either to provide a little special marketing, remember their heritage, or to bring back fond memories. There are many other retro liveries out there and hopefully more to come (Editor’s Note: still eagerly awaiting a United 787 or 777-300ER in Saul Bass tulip!).

Which retro livery (either these or others) is your favorite?

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF & FOUNDER - SEATTLE, WA. David has written, consulted, and presented on multiple topics relating to airlines and travel since 2008. He has been quoted and written for a number of news organizations, including BBC, CNN, NBC News, Bloomberg, and others. He is passionate about sharing the complexities, the benefits, and the fun stuff of the airline business. Email me: david@airlinereporter.com

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C J Stott


Nice article on Retros. Am also eagerly awaiting the roll out (fly by) of the United Boeing 727-100 being restored in the original UAL livery.

Thanks for putting this great article together

C J Stott

Take you down memory lane. Those were the days. Thank you for a awesome article. So by the way, what about the old DC 4’s, Boeing 707’s and DC 8’s. Just a suggestion. With you re ability David I am sure we can look forward to their write up’s making us long for those days with those kind of aircraft.

Oliwer Nardelli

It is always good to remember the “true symbols” stamped on the fuselage of aircraft flights airline that has survived, overcome crises and continue flying in the outside world.
But what most caught my attention, it was not the paintings on the aircraft. Were the conservation and cleanup conditions in patios and lanes where these pictures were taken.
Really an evolution happened in this regard.

I flew on the TWA 707 with the above livery from ORD to MDT (Harrisburg, PA) in the early 1980’s multiple times. Being based in GRB, one livery that is near and dear to my avgeek heart is the North Central Airlines livery with Herman the Duck (we called it the blue goose). North Central flew mostly DC-9s (-10, -30 and -50) during 1967 to 1979. That livery would look awesome on the Delta 717 (similar to a DC-9-30)!

Waiting to see that beautiful TWA color in the sky again, it meant so much to so many who still remember flying TWA around the world.

Hey, good to see your name here Ed!

A little time has elapsed since you posted here but I just ran across it, looking for airline material for one of my clients.



Who will do National Airlines ?

Maxine Czisny

Very interesting, as a former TWA International Flight Attendant, fun to see some TWA airplanes..

Dan Goldzband


Dan Goldzband

And my wife reminds me–Braniff! And not just the end of the plain plane (viva Mary Wells!) but Calder’s Flying Colors! Wouldn’t it be great to see something like that again.

Wow, what a great trip to see TWA looking brand new and beautiful.

What about a National Airlines livery ?

Nigel Mahood

Nice work David! I have been painting airliners now for over 25 years at locations in Santa Barbara, Ca.,
Lake City, Fl., Greensboro, N.C., Appleton, Wi. and Mirana, Az. seen a few things go wrong like; Southwest lettering on the tail on the right side the “S” was at the bottom of the fin just like on the left, it should have been at the top (since we read from left to right) Alaska 737 when the green stripe was modified to go strait back as apposed to curve and go up the tail the rudder is painted off the airplane since it has to be balanced when dry, the template of the Eskimo was moved aft, (should have been left at same location since the green area on the tail is now blue) so when the plane was all done and de-masked up went the rudder with part of the mouth, nose, and an added eyeball (we already had two on the fix part of the vertical) FYI.

Not positive who owns the trademarks for National Airlines, they were purchased by Pan American World Airways who then went bankrupt themselves. Delta Airlines bought some of the routes from Pan Am and a portion of the business. Later on Eclipse Holdings purchased Pan Am’s trademarks and I will assume that National Airlines was included with that purchase. If anyone wants to buy that trademark, they could paint their plane.

US Airways/American does have a PSA jet flying around, I have seen her at DCA. http://www.airliners.net/photo/American-Airlines-%28US/Airbus-A319-112/2703022/L/&sid=b9d3c593f46a8ac60006aced4735983a

I myself want to see a Western Airlines jet flying around, either classic swizzle stick or Bud Light will do. However, Delta Air Lines owns the Western Airlines trademarks and Delta is not into doing retro jets.


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