For many people, the sight of an aircraft is enough to turn heads. This is particularly the case for widebodies like the Boeing 747, whose sheer size and majesty catch the eyes of both avgeeks and the general public. As such, it is an ideal candidate for use as a mobile advertising board. As it happens, this is exactly what Virgin Atlantic did with a 747.
According to data from ch-aviation.com, G-VLIP spent its entire career with Virgin Atlantic. This 455-seat Boeing 747-400 joined the airline in May 2001, and flew high-density leisure flights across the North Atlantic Ocean for nearly 19 years. During this time, Virgin Atlantic used the aircraft to advertise not one but two different blockbuster movie franchises.
Promotional liveries can add an interesting splash of colour to an aircraft’s normal paint scheme, and the first time that this happened to G-VLIP was in May 2010. Data from ATDB.aero shows that the Harry Potter-themed livery that it was painted in at this time stayed on the aircraft until February 2011. But why did the jumbo sport such a paint scheme?
As you can see in the photo below, the special livery promoted ‘The Wizarding World of Harry Potter’ in Orlando, a key Virgin Atlantic destination. As it happens, the timing of this livery also coincided with the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1. This was the seventh of the franchise’s eight films, and it hit the big screen in November 2010.
From one popular film series to another, G-VLIP then went on to spend its final months at Virgin Atlantic in a Star Wars-themed livery. It first received this special paint scheme in September 2019, and retained it until Virgin Atlantic withdrew the aircraft in March 2020.
Additionally, Virgin Atlantic also renamed the aircraft, which was previously known as ‘Hot Lips,’ to ‘The Falcon.’ This was in homage to the Millenium Falcon spaceship that features in several Star Wars films, and indeed the special livery as well.
The reason for this temporary promotional paint job, which you can see in the photograph below, corresponded once again to the opening of a new attraction in Orlando. As Simple Flying reported at the time, the livery commemorated the opening of the ‘Galaxy’s Edge’ zone of Walt Disney World in Florida. LATAM also repainted a 777 for this purpose.
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Now stored in Arizona
Virgin Atlantic withdrew its Star Wars-liveried Boeing 747-400 in March 2020, as the onset of the coronavirus pandemic brought the world of commercial aviation screeching to a halt. After multiple storage periods in Spain and the UK, G-VLIP ended up further afield.
Indeed, since December 2020, the jumbo has been in storage in Marana, Arizona. Data from RadarBox.com shows that it first flew from London Heathrow to Las Vegas on December 9th last year, before continuing to an indefinite stay in the desert two days later.
Did you ever see G-VLIP with either of its promotional liveries applied? Perhaps you even flew on it? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments!