These Strangely Artistic Aircraft Paint Jobs Will Have You Craning Your Neck For A Closer Look

There’s nothing quite like the buzz of travel. After you get through the stressful parts – airport check-ins and security lines – you can start to get excited about the journey ahead. As you sit at your gate, though, you might peer out the window and notice something that’s going to make your trip even more special. Yes, that is an airplane covered in Pokémon, and yes it is awesome…

40. Blue Brazilian bird

You can learn everything you need to know about Azul Brazilian Airlines just from looking at its planes. As the name – and painted-on flag – imply, this operator is Brazilian. And the word “azul” means “blue” in Portuguese. Both of these facts clearly informed the eye-catching design of the company’s planes.

39. A tropical twist

The side of this plane says Alaska – and that’s the only cold-weather influence you’ll find on it. Rather than letting The Last Frontier inspire this plane’s design, Alaska Airlines seems to have drawn inspiration from one of its other destinations: Hawaii. For more than ten years, it has served The Aloha State’s airports of Kahului, Kona, Lihue and Honolulu.

38. Plum perfect

Do you know the Republic of China’s national flower? We’ll give you a hint: it’s on the tail of this aircraft. That bloom is the pink plum blossom, the country’s bloom of choice. And it makes sense that you’d find it here, on the tail of a China Airlines plane, as it is a state-owned carrier.

37. A Southeast Asian eagle

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Bald eagles tend to dominate all of the eagle-based imagery that Americans see – it is, after all, on the national seal. But they’re not the only species of this bird of prey. Hop on over to the Philippines and you might meet their eponymous variety of eagle, which is also the inspiration behind this design from the country’s Cebu Airlines.

36. Shark attack… but in the sky

Planes don’t generally fly all that close together, but still – imagine glancing behind in the cockpit and seeing this snarling shark looking back at you. Perhaps that’s the kind of intimidation that the designer of this propeller aircraft had in mind. Or, maybe they just like sharks – who knows?

35. Flagging its allegiance

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This jet makes no secret of its country of origin. Not only is this Union Flag-covered aircraft clearly from the U.K., but it’s also part of the country’s Royal Air Force (RAF). Its paint job commemorated the 90-year anniversary of the RAF’s Benevolent Fund, a charity for service members and their families.

34. Flowery flyer

If you haven’t seen this floral British Airways plane in the air, well, there’s no chance you ever will. Unfortunately, it was removed from the airline’s service in November 2007, and ended up getting scrapped. But we can still appreciate its flower-covered tail, painted in the brightest yellows, reds, blues and purples.

33. Another hummingbird in the sky

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The slogan of Caribbean Airlines – the state-owned operator of Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago – is “The Warmth of the Islands.” One way to invoke those vibes for travelers heading to these and other countries in the region? Slap a brightly colored hummingbird onto the side of your planes.

32. Fireworks at 35,000 feet

The typical commercial airliner cruises at an altitude of between 31,000 and 38,000 feet. Even the largest of fireworks – which can shoot up to 1,000 feet – can’t compete with that. So, if you want to see the latter go as high as the former, you’re going to have to find an airplane painted with fireworks, just like this one.

31. Roaring through the skies

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The Soviet Union’s first-ever Mach 2 fighter joined the country’s fleet in 1959, and it had some pretty impressive stats. It had an operational ceiling of just over 50,000 feet, and it could fly at almost 1,400mph. Clearly, this aircraft was already roaring through the sky on its own, but a tiger-themed paint job really hammered that message home.

30. Pualani plane

In Hawaiian, pua means flower, and lani means heaven, royalty or sky. So, the name Pualani can translate as flower in the sky. And that’s the moniker that Hawaiian Airlines has given to the woman featured on the tails of their planes, painted in eye-catching reds and purples.

29. An INTERPOL plane

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One way to build awareness for your campaign is to emblazon its slogan on the side of an Airbus. That’s what INTERPOL did in 2014 with this craft, part of AirAsia’s fleet. According to a press release from the international policing organization, the plane was “aimed at encouraging a stronger dynamic between law enforcement, the public and the private sector to prevent and fight crime.”

28. Fly Eagles, Fly

Before it merged with American Airlines in 2015, US Airways had hubs across the country, including in Philadelphia. In honor of its base in the City of Brotherly Love, it painted a plane with the local NFL team’s logo. The firm did this in other cities with a base and a football team, too.

27. Birds of a feather

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Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Well… In this case, it’s kind of both. British Airways came up with this design for its Airbus A319. Designers drew inspiration from the Olympic Dove, which has long been a feature in the athletic competition’s opening ceremonies. Nowadays, the doves are released as a sign of peace. In days of yore, though, homing pigeons were given the job of flying from the contests to the athletes’ hometowns to alert everyone that their local hero had won, so they could prepare the post-games party.

26. An inside paint job

If you see a city bus or Subway car covered in graffiti, you know it wasn’t the work of the local transit department. But Evelop – a Spanish branch of the Portugal-based Orbest airline – chose to decorate some of their fleet with a sticker that looks spray-painted on. The graffiti-inspired design simply stated the subsidiary brand’s name alongside its parent brand – the latter appearing in a more traditional typeface, of course.

25. Green machine

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A surprising 78 percent of New Zealand’s landmass is uninhabited, meaning there’s plenty of green space to explore and enjoy. Perhaps that’s what inspired this design for Air New Zealand’s special paint scheme, spotted here in January 2008. White flowers bedeck the all-green aircraft, sure to catch anyone’s attention on a tarmac dominated by white planes.

24. One in a Minion

The mission of SunExpress is to transport tourists, especially to Turkey, where the airline’s hub is located. But it seems like it also wants to turn heads with its livery design. Here, we have a SunExpress plane covered in mischievous Minions, the beloved characters from Universal Pictures’ Despicable Me franchise.

23. Magical Mickey plane

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The person who snapped this pic and uploaded it to Flickr said they were shocked when they caught a glimpse of it on the runway – so much so that they pulled over for a photo. They wrote, “How fast could I get off the highway?” Indeed, it is a pretty adorable design for an airplane – it’s got Mickey Mouse and his magic all over it.

22. A very Nevadan paint job

America West was once one of the country’s major airlines, but US Airways eventually snapped it up in 2007. Before then, though, this plane joined the fleet in 1994 and got a very geographically poignant paint job. The aircraft did fly under the US Airways banner too at first, but it was scrapped two years after the merger.

21. Starry skies ahead

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If you ever have the luxury of possessing your own plane, then you get the chance to curate a one-of-a-kind decal, too. This aircraft got a body wrap covered in stars set against a blue and purple sky. It may be a small plane, but its galaxy-inspired motif will certainly garner attention.

20. Very fast food?

This aircraft has a very interesting history – and, no, it doesn’t initially have much to do with McDonald’s. It first came off of an American production line in 1943, destined for the Air Force. Constructor Douglas sent the craft to Australia, where it served in its Royal Air Force for some time. Fast-forward 50 years and the same plane was retired to Taupo, New Zealand, where it became part of – you guessed it – the children’s play area at a McDonald’s.

19. Smiley-faced flyer

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Never mind a plane’s nose painted to mimic the snarling mouth of a shark; let’s contemplate a much more pleasant idea. Here, we have an aircraft that’s smiling at us and playfully sticking out its tongue. It even appears to have a little scarf tied around its neck – so cute!

18. Earning your stripes

The person who shared the photo of this plane via Flickr described the plane as an “undoubted star” of the German Air Force’s fleet in 2014. This Typhoon class aircraft would certainly turn heads, considering it was covered in tiger stripes. We’re a little jealous of the servicemen and women who got to fly it.

17. Year of the dragon

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Hong Kong Dragon Airlines – once simply known as Dragonair – has a great design inspiration built into its name. It selected this particular gold-colored look to commemorate the company’s 25th year in business. That special day occurred in 2010, so keep your eyes peeled for an eye-catching dragon to appear on future anniversaries.

16. A plane with pixie dust

In Disney’s Peter Pan, the titular character can fly, thanks to the perfect combination of “faith, trust and pixie dust.” Luckily, in the non-animated world, there’s a lot more technology behind the plane that’s taking you into the air. But it’s still nice to have Pan’s buddy, Tinkerbell, on the side of an aircraft for some additional leverage.

15. Feline like flying

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Tigers are pretty popular when it comes to airplane design. We’ve already seen one craft covered in stripes. Here we have another that looks even more like the big cat in question. That’s because the nose of the aircraft has a full tiger face on it. Me-ow.

14. Life’s a beach

There may be no better feeling than heading to the airport when you know you’re about to leave for a holiday in the sun. One way to amplify those feel-good vibes? Walking up to the gate and seeing your plane is painted with an adorable beachy landscape. Sipping a tropical cocktail at your gate might help, too.

13. A bear-y nice design

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The California Republic lasted all of a month. Settlers in the West Coast state declared independence from then-landholder Mexico and had it for a few weeks before American forces took over. Still, they had time to design a flag for their fleeting nation, which has endured as the symbol of California since. It has even appeared on the body of a Southwest Airlines plane, as you can see here.

12. A skyline in the sky

This Turkish Airlines plane’s design honors The Golden State. Indeed, it specifically features the colorful cityscape of San Francisco – and for a good reason. The aircraft modeled here, a brightly painted Boeing 777-300, honored the company’s direct flight from the Bay Area all the way to Istanbul.

11. Airborne animals

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The big cat catches your eye here, but this picture features three animal-inspired plane details. The person who snapped the photo said that they took it at the airport in Denver, describing it as the transport hub’s “menagerie.” Along with the feline, there appears to be a mountain goat and pigeon, too.

10. Waving the flag

Southwest Airlines was behind the California Republic flag-inspired design. So, it makes sense that it would have an Arizona pendant-covered plane in its fleet, too. And the state’s banner makes for a stunning graphic design on the exterior of the aircraft with its red-and-yellow stripes, metallic star and azure base.

9. Poke-plan

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All Nippon Airways stands as Japan’s largest airline, both in passenger numbers and revenue. It has a fleet of 241 planes, too, so it makes sense that the firm would have a little fun with the designs on at least a few of them. This particular craft pays homage to Pokémon, the Japanese media franchise known around the world.

8. To infinity… and beyond

Clearly, beloved cartoon characters make great design inspirations for airplanes. In this case, we have the stars of Toy Story: Woody the cowboy doll and his foe-turned-BFF, Buzz Lightyear. This aircraft is part of China Eastern Airlines, one of the three largest in the People’s Republic of China.

7. Peace and love plane

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If we’re learning anything from this list, it’s how inspiring the city of San Francisco can be for designers. This Swiss Airlines Airbus A340-313X has peace signs and hearts plastered all over it in honor of the West Coast city – and the company’s then-new direct service between there and Zurich.

6. A masterpiece in plane design

Even those without much art history knowledge would recognize the Mona Lisa – she’s the most famous painting in the world, according to CNN. Perhaps that’s why Korean Air chose her and her iconic smirk to bedeck this plane, which also featured the words “Passionate wings to art.” Flight to Paris to visit this piece at The Louvre, anyone?

5. Pocket pets on a plane

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You might not recognize the characters on this Japan Airlines plane – at least, not at first. But what if we told you they’re the updated version of one of your favorite toys from the 1990s which hailed from Japan? Yes, the colorful cartoon creatures here are from the reboot of Tamagotchi – much more adorable than the pixelated ones of decades past.

4. Peli-copter

A photographer caught a glimpse of this avian-inspired helicopter paint job in Weston-super-Mare, England, in 2007. Just in case you didn’t identify the species of the angry-looking bird on the aircraft, the design features its species name just on its wing: find the moniker “Pelican” for yourself.

3. Nice bit of ice

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In 2017 Icelandair had a lot to celebrate. It had been in the aviation business since 1937 – 80 whole years carting people to and from their majestic island. In commemoration of that feat, this plane hit the runway, bedecked with the landscapes that draw tourists to Iceland year in and year out.

2. Killer decal

An orca can zip through the open water at speeds of up to 45mph – pretty impressive for an up-to-6-ton mammal. Still, that velocity pales in comparison to how fast a plane can travel. This one – painted with a giant killer whale on its side – can cruise at a mean 575mph.

1. Bouncing out of here

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There are plenty of animals that are synonymous with the word “Australia,” but the kangaroo may be the most iconic of all the island’s creatures. As such, it made sense for the national carrier Qantas to decorate its fleet with the bipedal mammal. And it made the design even more evocative by using Australian aboriginal dot art to draw the adorable marsupials.

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