While not followed by every airline, some airlines decide to give each aircraft in their fleet a name. For example, Virgin Atlantic’s first Airbus A350 is called Red Velvet. However, if you turn to the British Airways fleet, only two aircraft have names, so why do only some aircraft have names? Simple Flying investigates!
On long road trips as a child, my mum made a game out of collecting the names of every Eddie Stobart lorry we drove past. However, on British Airways’ inaugural Airbus A350 flight to Madrid, my interest in naming vehicles was sparked again.
Looking out of the window at Heathrow I saw a BA Boeing 787 pull up alongside us with the name “Paul Jarvis” written on the side. To my knowledge, only BA’s Landor retro-jet had a name; City of Swansea. However, after some research, I discovered that the Paul Jarvis jet was named by the airline as a one-off to recognize the former curator of BA’s heritage collection.
It would appear that the tradition of naming aircraft comes from aviation’s somewhat nautical origins. These days, aviation borrows a fair bit from the nautical industry that predates it. For example, both boat and aircraft have a port and starboard.
According to All Things Boat, back in the day ships were given names so that people could easily identify which boat was which. Nowadays, aircraft are given registration numbers to identify them. For example, British Airways’ first A350 is registered as G-XWBA.
Tradition carried on
Some airlines will choose not to identify their aircraft beyond its tail number. Others, such as British Airways, will reserve naming an aircraft for celebrating a person or event. Meanwhile, naming aircraft can be taken incredibly seriously by other airlines.
Take Virgin Atlantic for example. They began to name their aircraft as Richard Branson was fed up with his first 747 being called Romeo Golf due to the last two letters of its registration G-VIRG. This aircraft ended up being named Maiden Voyager as it was the airline’s first aircraft.
Virgin Atlantic actually has a team of staff who work to come up with individual names and registrations for each new aircraft. Each aircraft must start with G-V and, with one exception, no aircraft can share the same last two letters. The name also usually has something to do with the registration, although the link can sometimes be questionable.
Virgin’s first A350 is registered as G-VLUX. So what does that have to do with Red Velvet? According to the airline “For LUX read luxury and then think of something red and luxurious. Possibly chosen at about three in the afternoon, it’s named after the delicious treat that is red velvet cake.”
What is the best aircraft name that you’ve come across? Let us know in the comments!