Photo gallery: Qantas' latest Boeing 737-800 in Aboriginal livery

By David Flynn, November 13 2013
Photo gallery: Qantas' latest Boeing 737-800 in Aboriginal livery

Qantas' new Boeing aircraft adorned in Aboriginal livery has arrived in Australia, and even if you're not a planespotter or an 'aerosexual' we reckon you'll appreciate the eye-catching livery of the Boeing 737-800, christened Mendoowoorrji.

The aircraft's look is drawn from the work of the late West Australian Aboriginal artist Paddy Bedford.

More specifically it's based on Bedford's 2005 painting Medicine Pocket (below), inspired by Bedford’s mother’s country of  Mendoowoorrji in the East Kimberly region of Western Australia. 

Sydney-based Aboriginal design studio Balarinji, which was also responsible for the three previous aircraft in Qantas' unique Flying Art series, adapted the painting to the Boeing 737.

Watch our exclusive video which shares some of the details behind the livery plus footage of the Mendoowoorrji.

Mendoowoorrji is markedly different from its predecessors Wunala Dreaming (seen below) and Nalanji Dreaming, which were both Boeing 747s...

... and the Yananyi Dreaming Boeing 737.

By comparison, Mendoowoorrji is obviously less colourful and less striking, but the design is far more elegant – it's a cleaner, more contemporary approach to the Flying Art concept.

Balarinji deconstructed Bedford's Medicine Pocket into motifs which could be adapted for a 3D treatment, and then broke down those motifs into 140 individual nylon stencils.

Some elements are applied to specific parts of the 737, such as the plane's nose and tail sections...

... while the design dominates the rear section of the plane, including wrapping a full 360 degrees around the fuselage.

But take it from us – no amount of photos can do justice to Mendoowoorrji.

At first glance the official Qantas PR shot can give the impression that the aircraft is mostly stock-standard white but for a zipper-like strip of black leading back from the nose and Bedford's bold blacks and reds wrapped around the tail.

Get close, however, and you realise that almost the entire aircraft has become a canvas.

Many parts of the plane which may seem white are gradated shades of white, grey and even hints of blue.

This mimics Bedford's 'wet on wet' technique: he'd apply white paint with a brush, then dip the brush into another colour without first washing off the white, so that the colours blended together.

You can also see the actual brushstrokes created by Boeing's use of broad bushes to hand-paint the plane – another nod to Aboriginal art – exposed under the clear final hard-wearing final coat.

This canvas took 10 days from start to finish, with the work done at the Boeing paintshop in collaboration with Balarinji.

The first five days were spent experimenting with paints and application techniques.

Achieving the textural shading was the most complex part of the process, with the different colour paints needing to be worked together while they were wet – which can be a very short 10 minute window. The gluey consistency of aircraft paint made this especially challenging.

The white dots lining the fuselage are in fact the base colour of the aircraft itself – they're the first colour in which the Boeing 737 was painted from tip to tail.

Stencils were then used to apply the solid blacks and reds before work began on textured elements and the white surfaces.

In all, some 500 litres and 125 kilograms of paint was used to transform the Boeing 737-800 from just another jet into a flying work of art.

Even the iconic red tail which adorns all Qantas jets was painted in a slightly darker, richer tone to match the earthier ochre which appears on the top of the fuselage.

This is a first for Qantas and it underscores the airline's commitment to the 'flying art' concept.

Mendoowoorrji will begin flying on the Qantas domestic network from mid-November and will be rostered onto regular services, predominately on the east coast 'triangle' route between Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne along with some flights to Perth, Canberra, Broome and within WA.

Watch our exclusive video on the new Qantas Boeing 737-800 Mendoowoorrji

Australian Business Traveller travelled to Seattle and returned to Sydney on the delivery flight of the new Boeing 737-800 Mendoowoorrji as a guest of Qantas.

Follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter: we're @AusBT


David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

13 Sep 2011

Total posts 181

It looks very good.

I hope the darker richer red on the tail fin becomes standard across all Qantas aircraft.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Aug 2012

Total posts 2207

Indeed! This is an excellent design in my estimation - beautifully understated.

Virgin Australia - Platinum

21 Dec 2012

Total posts 86

Couldnt have said it better woganfan, the deep red looks fantastic and would also differentiate it a bit from the new Virgin colours.

Cathay Pacific - Asia Miles

25 Apr 2013

Total posts 543

Hope it goes on the A380-800s to HKG as well as the B747-400ERs on the same route.

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2551

Alvin: this livery is a one-off – you won't see it on any Qantas A380 or Boeing 747...

Cathay Pacific - Asia Miles

25 Apr 2013

Total posts 543

I was wishing I could take it ;(

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1247

Great article. Always love a good behind the scenes story. 

11 Nov 2013

Total posts 1

Very beautiful. Wish they could do these on the majority of their planes, especially the international ones. That would make me very proud to be Australian.

09 Sep 2012

Total posts 139

Chacun a son gout.

13 Nov 2013

Total posts 5

Looks great. I like the new red on the tail! I can't help but wonder how much an initiative like this costs though...

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