This Airforce C17 Wears The Qatar Airways Livery – Here’s Why


“Why does Qatar Airways have a Boeing C17 Globemaster in its fleet?” That’s what many people ask when they see the aircraft. It’s also been discussed several times on forums. Well the 2020 Kuwait Aviation Show is happening right now and we had a chance to go straight to the source and confirm what people are saying on the internet. Here’s what we found out…

The Qatar C17 making an appearance at the Kuwait Aviation Show. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying

It’s not part of Qatar Airways

This C17 isn’t actually operated by Qatar Airways. But the aircraft does have the same owner as Qatar’s fleet: The Qatari government. Confirmed in its financial reporting, Qatar Airways Group is wholly owned by the State of Qatar.

So, if Qatar Airways doesn’t operate this beast of an aircraft, who does? The answer is the Qatar Emiri Air Force. In fact, the Qatar Emiri Air Force operates eight C17s according to But not all of the Air Force’s C17s look like this.


The others have a more standard dark grey, as is common with most aircraft used for military operations. Delivered in 2009, aircraft registration MAB was the Air Force’s second C17 from Boeing.

The aircraft has the registration ‘MAB’. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying

Why the livery?

Finally – the answer you’ve been waiting for.

Firstly, there is the answer we received today at the Kuwait Aviation Show. A crew member told us that certain civilian airports around the world (London was used as an example) restrict aircraft that are visibly from the military. Therefore, with this aircraft taking on the livery of a commercial airline, it is allowed to land while other military aircraft may not be permitted.

A view of the cargo area from the back window of the cockpit. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying

While this is a pretty authoritative source, we were unable to find any information online to verify this. We also emailed London Heathrow Airport to see if they would be willing to confirm that such a policy existed. No response was received at the time of publishing this article.

The second answer, found in Boeing’s 2009 press release is as follows:

“This unique C-17 paint scheme — the first of its kind — is intended to build awareness of Qatar’s participation in operations around the world” -Brig. Gen. Ahmed Al-Malki, head of Qatar’s airlift selection committee



And this makes sense when you read the rest of the press release and what these aircraft do. These C17s are meant to assist with “humanitarian aid, disaster relief and peacekeeping missions”. In short, the paint job is used to raise Qatar’s profile and project a positive image on the global stage wherever it flies. We would assume this particular aircraft and its flashy livery would not be used in combat operations unlike the rest of the Qatari C17 fleet.

A special setup in the middle of the cargo area for (one assumes) high-ranking Air Force leaders to strategize. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying
Another low-angle shot of the C17’s interior. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying


Although this isn’t too involved with the world of commercial aviation, we thought you might find it interesting as very few air force aircraft around the world take on the livery of their national airline.