Qantas unveils indigenous livery Boeing 787-9

Qantas has revealed images of its fourth 787-9 in the paintshop at Boeing’s Everett facility just outside Seattle featuring a special Indigenous livery.

Qantas says the new livery is based on a work by the late Northern Territory artist and senior Anmatyerre woman, Emily Kame Kngwarreye. Her 1991 painting, Yam Dreaming has been adapted for the aircraft by leading Indigenous-owned design studio Balarinji.

After emerging from the paintshop the aircraft, VH-ZND, which is to be named Emily Kame Kngwarreye, will undergo flight testing before being ferried to Alice Springs for a special welcome event on March 2.

“As the national carrier we’re thrilled to showcase another piece of Indigenous culture on one of our aircraft, and to reiterate our ongoing commitment to reconciliation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said.

“It’s a beautiful, bold artwork and so we hope it catches people’s eye and sparks a conversation about our country’s dynamic Indigenous culture.”

There was a hint of that “beautiful, bold” artwork when images of the aircraft on the Boeing flightline, featuring its painted tail, appeared on Twitter in late January.

Prior to VH-ZND’s reveal, Qantas has had five aircraft – two Boeing 747-400s, one Boeing 747-300 and two 737s – painted with four different designs of Indigenous art, all designed in partnership with the Balarinji studio.

“It’s been a privilege to work with the brilliant imagery of the late Emily Kame Kngwarreye to create the airline’s fifth iconic Indigenous flying art aircraft. Emily was an extraordinary artist who is revered around the world,” managing director of Balarinji, Ros Moriarty, said.

“Born in 1910, she began painting only in later life, completing more than 3,000 exceptional works up until her death at 86 years of age. Her work embodies her cultural and spiritual connections to her country.”

VH-VND now joins Boeing 737-800 VH-XZJ, Mendoowoorrji, which is currently in Qantas service. The Mendoowoorrji design was inspired by Paddy Bedford’s painting Medicine Pocket and “captures the essence of Mendoowoorrji, Bedford’s mother’s country in the East Kimberley region of Western Australia”.

An ARFF monitor cross for Qantas Boeing 737-800 VH-XZJ Mendoowoorrji. (Seth Jaworski)
An ARFF monitor cross for Qantas Boeing 737-800 VH-XZJ Mendoowoorrji. (Seth Jaworski)

Previously, the Wunala Dreaming scheme featured on two Boeing 747-400s (VH-OJB from 1994-2003 and 747-400ER VH-OEJ from 2003-2011). The artwork was inspired by the Yanyuwa people from the Gulf of Carpentaria and was a celebration of the “reproduction of all living things in the continuing harmony of nature’s seasons”.

A file image of Qantas Boeing 747-400ER VH-OEJ Wunala Dreaming. (Seth Jaworski)
Boeing 747-400ER VH-OEJ Wunala Dreaming. (Seth Jaworski)

Meanwhile, Nalanji Dreaming was on 747-300 VH-EBU from 1995 until the aircraft was retired in 2005, and Yananyi Dreaming was introduced on 737-800 VH-VXB in 2002.

747-300 VH-EBU Nalanji Dreaming. (Australian Aviation collection)
Qantas Boeing 737-800 VH-VXB Yananyi Dreaming takes off from Perth Airport. (Qantas)
737-800 VH-VXB Yananyi Dreaming takes off from Perth Airport. (Qantas)

VH-ZND’s delivery next month will shortly be followed by the start of nonstop flights between Perth and London on March 24, linking the continents of Australia and Europe with regularly scheduled passenger flights for the first time.

Qantas has already taken delivery of three 787-9s which are currently operating Melbourne-Los Angeles international flights as well as limited Sydney-Melbourne domestic services to allow crews to build experience on the type.


  1. Craigy says

    I like the design and it is fitting that the aircraft is named after Emily. I thought it would be named Dreamtime but pleased with the recognition of the artist.

  2. Dale says

    Don’t get me wrong – I love and fully support Qantas, this aircraft and the concept…… but I am confused. How can all this extra paint not be a problem, and yet painting a small kangaroo on QF 787 engine nacelle’s would apparently have a detrimental effect on fuel efficiency?

  3. KFB says

    I really like this livery. It isn’t what I thought it would be but now that I can see it fully painted it looks amazing. It would be really cool if Qantas painted a Q400 in Aboriginal colours, but unfortunately, I don’t see that happening in the near future…

  4. says

    honestly thought it was nice at first. I’m used to either seeing a full plane livery of just the tail- what I mean is it looks incomplete. But I really like what I’m seeing!

  5. Riplander says

    @Dale the engines are applicable with both the 787-8 and 787-9, which means they can swap engines with a jet star 787 or other partner airlines’ for operational efficiency. It would seem weird to have the QF symbol on the engine nacelle of a Jet star 787, Hence the main reason why they didn’t paint it.

  6. KFB says

    Dale, I completely agree. How can a small kangaroo reduce fuel efficiency but a special livery covering more than half the aircraft can’t? It seems so ludicrous. I mean, Qatar uses the same engines as Qantas and they put their logo on the engines. It seems like this isn’t about fuel efficiency at all, maybe it is just Qantas trying to cut costs…

  7. Brian Tierney says

    I like the idea however I would prefer a striking motive with the same art. All over too much and too heavy.

  8. Marc says

    Swapped for operational efficiency.

    There’s no extra paint. It’s one scheme.

  9. Peter Andjelkovic says

    I too would like to see something more striking and going in a line direction.
    Its too busy.
    I love aboriginal art.

  10. Craigy says

    @ KFB I seem to remember a comment in a previous story about the Qantas B789 and no roo on the engine nacelle. It seems that it is a Boeing recommendation because more than one layer of colour causes laminar flow disturbances around the nacelle increasing drag. Perhaps a contributor or AA could confirm this..

  11. Markie Mark says

    It’s got nothing to do with air flow or fuel efficiency, it’s 100% about pooling within the Qantas group 787’s.

  12. Bodie says

    My understanding is that engines are leased these days not owned. I heard there is a global push by major airlines to do this…

  13. Dale says

    Oh cool, thanks for the feedback! Makes perfect sense not to paint if the engines are pooled with Jetstar.

  14. Yusef Danet says

    I love the livery.

    Engines aren’t nacelles. When you change an engine, the nacelle stays with the airframe, opening like a couple of clams to let the engine out. You’ll only see engines on trolleys, not enclosed by nacelles.

  15. Ben says

    (The other Ben)

    I don’t mind this scheme. I do prefer the artworks all over the fuselage though. Nalanji Dreaming was outstanding. Yananyi Dreaming is similarly impressive.

    I wasn’t a huge fan of Wunala dreaming though, it just seemed to be overkill on the different shades of red, when there’s already a red tail.

    I’ve always wondered why they don’t try these schemes on a A380. A Nalanji Dreaming scheme on the A380 would look awesome.

  16. Connor says

    ALL the indigenous-inspired paintwork on QF aircraft, down the years’, has looked brightly-coloured, & totally different to any other design!

    Cheers to the big ‘White ‘Roo’ for such visual enjoyment!