The Evolution Of Delta Air Lines’ Livery

Atlanta-based US legacy carrier Delta Air Lines has nearly 100 years of operational history under its belt. During this time, its livery has seen several changes, while remaining functional and recognizable in its aesthetic. Let’s take a look at some of the carrier’s most recognizable paint schemes over the years, and the aircraft to which Delta applied them.

Delta-High-Speed-WiFi-Mainline-Domestic
Delta’s livery has undergone many changes to get to where it is now. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

The early years

Delta Air Lines commenced operations in June 1929. During the carrier’s early years, its paint scheme remained relatively rudimentary. Indeed, most of its aircraft’s fuselages were left with a metallic finish, rather than being painted as we have become used to today.

According to the Delta Museum, the airline’s Lockheed Electra aircraft had rather minimal markings, save for the Delta logo on its metal-finished nose. Its Douglas DC-2s had a similar appearance, with an additional lightning pattern stretching behind it.

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Delta Lockheed Electra
There is little to suggest that this Lockheed Electra belonged to Delta, save for the logo on its nose.        Photo: Robert Yarnall Richie via Wikimedia Commons

During the 1940s, Delta began flying the larger Douglas DC-3 and DC-6 designs. As you can see below, the paint scheme that the carrier applied to these aircraft saw its logo moved to the rear of the metallic fuselage. It also featured a thicker and straighter blue cheatline below the windows, and its name in a more conspicuous, capitalized print above them.

Delta Air Lines Douglas DC-3
Delta flew the DC-3 between 1940 and 1960. Photo: Jon Proctor via Wikimedia Commons

Delta eventually began painting the tops of its aircraft white. This helped them to reflect the sun and, subsequently, keep the planes cool. An example of an aircraft on which Delta used such an approach was the Douglas DC-7, which it began flying in 1954.

Delta Air Lines Douglas DC-7
Delta’s DC-7s had a ‘white cap’ painted fuselage. Photo: Joe Haupt via Flickr

The jet age

Delta entered the jet age in 1959, when it began flying the Douglas DC-8 and Convair 880. Each design had its own livery. Three years later, in 1962, Robert Bragg introduced a new ‘widget’ style logo. This would see the airline’s livery remain constant for decades to come.

Delta Air Lines Convair 880
Delta’s Convair 880s wore a different livery to its other jets. Photo: RuthAS via Wikimedia Commons

The widget referred to the new logo’s red triangle. With this aspect, Bragg and Delta looked to conjure thoughts and images of jet airliners and their striking swept wing designs. The new ‘widget’ livery saw very little change between 1962 and 1997. However, when it became standard in 1968, the words ‘Air Lines’ were removed for a more streamlined look.

Delta TriStar
In addition to the tick blue cheatline at window level, Delta’s widget’ livery also featured a thinner red stripe just above the window line. Photo: FotoNoir via Flickr

From 1997, up until as late as 2008, aircraft were spotted with the interim “Ron Allen” design. This paint scheme saw the words ‘Air Lines’ reintroduced to the carrier’s aircraft’s fuselages. It was also the last Delta livery to feature the characteristic dark blue cheatline.

Delta MD-11
The interim livery was named after the former president, chairman, and CEO of the company. Photo: Ken Fielding via Wikimedia Commons

The turn of the century saw Delta change its livery once. It removed the cheatline, and coated its tails in flowing waves of red and blue. It also reverted the capitalization of its name, as seen below.

Delta 767 Old Livery
Aircraft like Delta’s Boeing 767s wore this livery in the early 2000s. Photo: Aero Icarus via Flickr

The current livery

Delta’s most recent livery change occurred in 2007. This saw the widget logo take on a three-dimensional design that dominates the aircraft’s tails.

Delta A220
Delta has sported its current livery since 2007. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

This change also saw Delta return to a capitalized spelling of its name. In 2015, it also began applying a print of its name in white paint on the dark blue underside of its aircraft’s fuselages. Overall, the story of the Delta livery is a fascinating chapter of aviation history, and it will be interesting to see how it changes in years to come.

Which of Delta’s liveries over the years has been your favorite? What changes do you think the carrier might make for its next paint job? Let us know your thoughts and predictions in the comments.

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