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No ‘retrojet’ for Air New Zealand

written by John Walton | February 20, 2015
B787-9 ZK-NZF NZ AKL 10 Oct 14 Andrew Aley - 03
Air New Zealand says it won’t be painting a 787 in a retro scheme. (Andrew Aley)

Air New Zealand has no plans for a retrojet to celebrate its 75th anniversary, head of global brand management Jodi Williams confirms to Australian Aviation, quashing rumours that the airline was due to paint its upcoming Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner in a commemorative livery.

“We did consider it – there are endless ideas for ways of celebrating – and normally we would look at doing something like that. We’ve done it with the movie properties we’ve worked with, like The Hobbit. But we are right in the throes of our brand new livery, the black and white fern, and so we are already committed to ensuring that we upgrade our existing aircraft in the new paint scheme,” Williams said.

Scuttlebutt around the New Zealand aviation community was that Boeing 787-9 ZK-NZC was to arrive in a retro livery with the blue-and-green-striped 1973-1996 version tipped as the selection. ZK-NZC is the former N789EX, the test aircraft that gave an aerobatic demonstration at the 2014 Farnborough International Airshow, and would have needed repainting from Boeing house colours to Air New Zealand’s livery regardless.

Across the Tasman, Qantas’s Boeing 737-800 retrojet, registered VH-XZP and named James Strong after Qantas’s erstwhile CEO, has received a warm welcome from passengers, enthusiasts, the industry and everyday Instagrammers since its arrival in November 2014. See Australian Aviation’s January-February bumper issue for the full story. 

While perhaps a disappointment to aviation photographers and the #avgeek community, the airline’s decision is sensible given the diversity of liveries currently sported by the airline’s aircraft. Air New Zealand is certainly no stranger to commemorative liveries or variants that help it make a media splash.

At last check, two Boeing 777-300ER aircraft sport movie tie-in liveries featuring Sir Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit franchise, ZK-OKP with the 2013 version featuring Hobbits and dwarves, and ZK-OKO with the eponymous dragon from 2014’s The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. A further 777-300ER, two domestic A320s and several domestic turboprop aircraft wear all-black liveries designed to commemorate the All Blacks for 2011 Rugby World Cup. ZK-NZE, the airline’s first Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, for which it was the launch customer, wears an all-black (though not All Black) version of the current fern livery. The previous teal-and-blue gradient 1996-era livery is also seen in two variants: with and without the two curved Pacific Wave lines on the fuselage.

Rationalising the current brand heterogeneity – before perhaps introducing a retrojet for a future anniversary – is no bad idea, no matter how quickly this author would be down to the airport to see an Air New Zealand retrojet.

In a wide-ranging interview on the airline’s birthday celebrations for Australian Aviation’s April issue, Williams elaborated on Air New Zealand’s plans, including a landmark exhibition at Wellington’s Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand running through to June 7, reproduction merchandise including iconic Crown Lynn tableware, and onboard commemorative products. The April issue will go on sale in Australia on March 26.

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Comments (10)

  • Graham


    I think you will find that the third Air NZ 787-9 aircraft is in fact ZK-NZG, not NZC

  • Hi Graham — thanks for the suggestion. To avoid tiptoeing around the issue of whether we’re counting MSNs or ZK- registrations or deliveries, I’ve clarified the sentence you refer to.

  • Broderick


    Without focusing on this too much, my understanding is NZD will be the next Dreamliner to arrive, NZC to follow soon after.

  • William


    Might be too hard to get that polished metal look on a composite airframe!

  • Congratulations to Air NZ on 75 years. For those of you lucky enough to visit New Zealand I highly recommend MOTAT.for a spectacular display of former Air NZ aircraft and uniforms, including a flying boat (absolute luxury with a chef on board!) and Pierre Cardin crew uniforms.

    Would love to see a retro Air NZ liveried aircraft, but the current 787 livery is also amazing.

    Well done Air NZ.

    Nathan Agnew
    Former Chief Planning Officer, Air NZ

  • Allister


    One of the black A320s, ZK-OJR, is now in the standard new scheme, leaving only the original black aircraft, ZK-OAB.

  • Jackson Reilly


    As a New Zealander I can confirm that some information is wrong in this article. ZK-OJR the old all black Airbus A320 is no long in All Blacks Livery, and now in the silver fern livery. There is only ZK-OAB that is painted in All Black Livery.

  • Terence


    That retro livery is really nice!

  • MATE


    Could it be its former Colours TEAL, now that would be and eye catcher

  • Mike


    No one will read this comment, apart perhaps from someone at Australian Aviation to check the content! This 2015 article has stirred hopes that Qantas might repaint a B747-438 as a retrojet prior to the type departing the fleet on 2020.
    As I write B747-438ER is in Hong Kong undergoing maintenance. What an absolute thrill and attention winner it would be if it were to return to service wearing the original B747-238B ochre and red livery similar to B737-838 “James Strong”? With two years flying ahead before scheduled retirement the plane would be seen in many international ports and create massive interest in the type as Qantas approaches a century of operations! Amazing to think that the B747 in some form has been in Qantas service for almost half that 100 years!
    I am hoping VH-OEH comes home wearing ochre and a winged kangaroo!!!! Go “SKIPPY II”!!

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