The Altair Museum Liveries Collection
More then often, Virtual Airlines are short lived projects that usually come out of the mind of one enthusiastic flight simmer. They usualy do not live more than a year and some of them do not even make it past the summer vacations. Altair Virtual Airlines is proud to be one of the longest living virtual airlines around. In fact, Altair Virtual Airlines has such a long tradition that we were even able to create this "liveries collection" showing the evolution of our liveries in time. For every decade we first describe how real world liveries changed in the period and then focus on the Altair liveries for the same decade.
In reality, the first livery used by our virtual airline when it began back in 2001 is the one shown in the 70s. All the previous ones are "what if" liveries. Curiously though, those first liveries used by AVA and the sequence in wich they changed can be closely related to the tendencies the real world liveries followed from the decades after the 70s. For the period prior to the 70s we recreated a historically accurate evolution of the Altair liveries in time based on the development real world airline paintings experienced since the early times of commercial aviation. The historic Altair liveries are not independent the previous one from the subsequent. They gradually evolve changing elements of the design every decade to finally come to the first livery used for real by Altair VA as if it was a natural development, closely following the style and trends for each period.
Altair VA changed it's livery approximately once a year. So after the 70s the liveries shown for each one of the decades are the real evolution of our paint schemes, one year for every decade, until getting the newest one in use now. The year when they were used for real in our virtual world are shown after the "virtual" decade. The newer Altair divisions also have a short story about the evolution of their liveries at the bottom of this page.
The Altair Passenger Fleet
1910s & 1920s - Keeping it simple
Early airline liveries did not have a paint scheme as we know today. All the airlines had was the name of the company written on the sides of the fuselage. There was not a standard livery as we know today because airplane shapes varied a lot, and paintings were more "aircraft model oriented", that is, every aircraft type tended to have a particular scheme from the manufacturer and the name of the company was just painted over it. The most visible element was the plane type or the manufacturers name written on the tail or fuselage, like the Ford 5AT Tri-Motor shown below. Airline logos however soon appeared and started to be used when possible. Early Altair Virtual Air Service liveries were also simple. The full name of the airline was written over the fuselage and the logo below it. The Jenny also displayed the early rounded AVA logo on the tail.
1930s - The "shiny look", simple stripes over bare metal
This was Altair's first official paint scheme. Not much was added from the time the name of the company was simply written over canvas or the corrugated metal from the Ford Tri-Motor. However, since airplanes started looking more like how we know them today due to the rounded fuselage and lower wings, this livery starts to look a little "less strange" to our eyes. Almost all existing airlines from the period used to paint the name of the company over the metal. Altair was no different and adopted the same pattern with a single stripe running below the windows line. The AVA logo inside the circle is displayed on the tail in the same way it was before. Notice the large size of the registration, typical of the period.
1940s - More stripes over bare metal
A little more stripes added. This decade marks the beginning of more elaborate liveries. Still painted over bare metal airlines now started showing an interest in the marketing aspect of the airplanes liveries. Names of the companies started to be painted bigger on the fuselages and some "decoration" is also used, often in form of arrows or birds or wings. Stripes along the fuselage were common and "rounded" shapes were the most used trends in design. The emphasis was on the fuselage, the tail was not yet used as we know today, often displaying only the registration marks or some (more) stripes. The Altair livery of the period was still painted over bare metal. It is a little more sofisticated though with the stripes forming a pattern of the feathers of a bird, following the concept of the "Aquila" constellation, from wich Altair is the alpha star (the brightest star of a constellation is known in astronomy as the alpha star).
1950s - The "white top"
Airliners still had the classic stripes along the fuselage but they were now usually a single bold one running over the windows. A small improvement over the past liveries though. Instead of the bare metal the top of the fuselage is now painted white from the windows up. This is a scheme we are all a bit more used to see, many companies did not change it much and it was common well into the seventies. What distingushes this era from the others is the tail. They still used the same patterns from the 40s, mostly stripes, airline names or plane models written on it. Even the early jets that appeared late in the period, like the Comet, the Boeing B707 and the Douglas DC-8, used those old paint schemes, and they look rather odd today to us. Altair livery adopted the white background and the 'Aquila' wing, a little more sophisticated, is also reproduced around the cockpit windows. The multiple blue stripes are now a single bold one over the windows framed by two smaller yellow stripes. The nose of the aircraft is all blue now. The new AVA logo in yellow goes over the blue rounded shapes on the nose and the tail now has "Altair" written on it instead of the previous AVA in the circle logo. Yellow is used for the first time as a second colour.
1960s - The "blue and yellow stripes" scheme
The first logos start to appear on the tail in the late 50s and in the new liveries that appeared in the 60s. The jet age and the comparatively larger tail from the Boeing B707 and the Douglas DC-8 provide now some added space for designers creativity. Almost all airlines at the time began using logos or some sort of image on the tail or even complemented it by displaying airplane types. Also the tip of the nose started to be painted black. Altair changes the yellow stripes into a single one below the blue one. The paint on the nose is now streamlined following the shape of the newer jet planes. The Altair logo is back on the tail over a blue stripe and the tail is now has a slightly more modern look (at the time...) with the model of the plane written under 'Altair'.
1970s (2001) - The "blue tail" and back to the original bare metal style
There was not much difference in airliners looks from the sixties to the seventies. The major improvement was on the tail, with airline logos having more importance and the tails receiving more elaborate paintings. The large stripe over the windows still reigned supreme in this era, but for the first time some different liveries appeared here and there, like the colourful Braniff, the waves in Air Bahamas and the all white, writing below the windows Air West schemes. Other slight change from the sixties is the tendency to advance the name of the airline to the front part of the fusalge and not at it's center anymore. They were usually in the first third of the fuselage. Quite a few airlines used the liveries created in the seventies well into the nineties like Varig and Delta, and some still use it today, like American Airlines. Altair liveries in that period got back to the stripes over bare metal scheme, like Eastern did later with their Lockheeds 1011 Tristars in the 80s. Just like their counterparts, Altair tail got the distinctive all "blue tail" with the yellow logo over it. The blue from the tail stretched over the fuselage now meeting the blue stripe. It was the longest living Altair livery and became it's trademark for more than 20 years.
1980s (2002) - White replaces the bare metal
The colourful period. The eighties mark the beginning of liveries as we know them today. Many airlines have to date liveries they started using during this period. The rigidity of the large window stripe over white with bare metal belly is gone, and we start seeing liveries in many different ways. While many paintings still have stripes they rarely come from the nose and end in the tail, nor were they limited to the width of the windows like before. They came in all sizes and shapes. At the same time the bare metal belly became less and less apparent with the white going down to the wing root and some airlines either painted them white too or changed them to gray. KLM, Singapore, Air France, TAP, Thai, Hawaiian Air and Iberia actual liveries are from this period, wich by the way removed the bare metal from their liveries completely at the time. Altair Virtual Airlines did the same and white replaced the bare metal textures.The liveries in this period had the same traditional blue and yellow stripes but now painted over white.
1990s (2003) - The "blue belly", replacing the yellow and blue stripes
The 90s were a mix of the old and the new, many tendencies lived together. While you still have the venerable stripes along the windows and the "all white" planes, there is also something new starting. The new "fashion" now are the colorful bellies. Instead of painting the top of the aircraft some airlines now started to paint the bellies of their planes while keeping the tops white. Many current liveries were created in the 90s. While the Altair Virtual Airlines lettering remains the same, the blue and yellow stripes along the windows are now replaced by the blue belly. This is the last one of the "blue tail" liveries.
The Embraer ERJ-170 was the only aircraft Altair painted in this scheme, it retains the original Embraer House colors with the Altair lettering. Altair was one of the first 170's operators in the (virtual) world and this painting reinforces the partnership between the two companies. The beautiful Falcon livery is also unique. Apart from it's corporate role the aircraft is also used by the Altair Weavers & Painters Guild to perform it's numerous fleet related tasks around the world.
2000s (early 2004) - "White tail", the biggest change in Altair "looks"
From the mid 90s there was a trend in airline liveries for "cleaner" looks. This is a major difference from the bright colourful airplanes from the 80s. All white liveries or those using light colours are increasingly common. The differences between airline liveries are now basically on tails and companies logos painted on fuselages. The Altair livery in the 2000s is the first of the "white tail" ones. The blue over white logo substitutes the yellow over blue. Also on the fuselage "Altair" substitutes the "Altair Virtual Airlines" used since the late 50s. The font is changed to a more contemporary sans serif one, but the blue belly and the yellow stripe remain unchanged.
Late 2004 - The "clean look" trend
All white fuselages settles as the new look for airliners. Altair once again changes it's livery sliding the blue belly further down and merging the yellow stripe to the top of the blue. The "Altair" lettering is smaller and the same yellow wedge from the "white tail" is added to "Altair". Every new Altair aircraft also proudly carry their names "City of" on the nose again, as it did from it's beginnings until the 60s.
Other Altair Virtual Group divisions liveries
The "other" Altair liveries in time
Other liveries from the Altair Virtual Group divisions.
Created in 2004 as a separate division from the Altair Group, Altair Global Logistics only saw one official livery so far. However, Altair had cargo operations since it's beginnings hauling mail with the Jenny JN-4D. The first aircraft to be converted solely to cargo operations was the Fokker F.VIIb/3m in 1945, followed by the Douglas DC-3 in 1961. It is by the way the longest living aircraft within all Altair divisions to stay in the same segment; 43 years since 1961 and not counting the previous 24 years in pax operations. It is also the oldest Altair aircraft with 67 years of continuous service, a remarkable feat. Those first airplanes did not have a special livery. They mostly had the word "Cargo" added after "Altair" or "Altair Virtual Airlines" when they were converted from passenger to freight operations. The paint was essentially the same but in some cases, like the DC-7C or the DC-3 shown below, they could wear an 'economical" livery, where the bare metal was predominant. Some other aircraft acquired for the cargo divison that were not once part of the passenger fleet could also have the original painting used by only changing the lettering. One of those cases is the all white Lockheed L100 Hercules shown below. This of course changed during the years as the marketing value of having a nice paint job for the cargo planes grew in importance. Notice the Douglas DC-8-54F, the (first) Lockheed L100 and the Boeing B747-400F shown below painted in the same scheme the passenger planes used. The two last pictures show the current scheme in use by AGL on the Boeing B747-400 and the Lockheed L100. This last one shows us a good example of how the cargo liveries evolved in time.
The executive aviation division of Altair only got a distinctive livery in 1972 when the Raytheon Beechcraft 58 Baron was introduced to the Academy and also to the Corporate segment. Until then all planes would fly regular routes as well as charter or business flights with no special markings. In fact, in the early days of commercial aviation, some time passed until flights were regular and scheduled, and the Curtiss JN-4D Jenny, besides the mail runs, often flew "executive" flights more than regular scheduled ones. The Piper J3 Cub was also used in the 40s as a small one place air charter more by necessity than by choice. As it happens today with the Beechcraft 58 Baron, the Piper J3 Cub was the airplane used in the Academy to train our pilots. When not training pilots, it was used as an air taxi. Since it was decided to have the Cub in the factory painting, only changing the original black stripe for an Altair blue one, this early Altair Corporate plane had a different livery than those used on regular passenger flights. With the Beechcraft 58 Baron Altair Corporate got a livery of it's own. Down below you may see the four liveries this little plane wore for the last years. Notice how it changed from the blue tail variation to the blue belly one, and also how the name of the not yet official division changed from "ALTAIR EXECUTIVE" to "ALTAIR CHARTER" and then finally to "ALTAIR CORPORATE". Those changes reflect the tendency Altair Corporate followed in more recent years to focus on the high end of the market. All aircraft interiors are a luxurious first class configuration - our Boeing Business Jet for example is configured for 22 passengers only - and since it became an independent divison within Altair it's current livery reflects the distinction and discretion expected by the AVC's customers. This way, from the passenger like livery all aircraft used (shown below on the Embraer Legacy and the de Havilland DHC-6-300) AVC planes now display a modern and discreet scheme, one you would normally see on a business jet plane.
Targeting the regional market and working as feeders for the Altair main routes it did not have a livery until very recently. Just like the other divisions, Altair Express did not exist formally until very recently. It used the very same livery Altair Airlines has. The only difference now from the existing Altair Airlines livery is the addition of the word "Express" after "Altair" and the use of the silver stripe instead of the golden one above the blue belly. While Altair Airlines uses gold and blue Altair Express has silver and blue as their colours. The image below shows the SAAB340 in the early 90s livery, a mix of the old blue tail and the new (then) blue belly scheme. To the right we have the Beechcraft B1900D painted in the new Altair Express livery.
One of the oldest Altair branches, started after the war in 1948, it is ironically also one of the lesser known to the common public. It focuses on commercial non passenger operations and has a variety of clients ranging from aerial photograph companies to geophisical survey bureaus, airclubs, sky diving teams, national parks and forests departments, various government agencies, oil companies and many others. Typical missions would include firefighting with air tankers, civilian parachute operations, agricultural aviation, aerial ambulance and rescue missions, aerial photograph with special equipment installed on board, measurements and other data gathering again with special instruments on board, surveillance, both from border patrol as well as for private companies, oil spills and other environment related observations and other "special" cargo and personel transportation missions that do not qualify as regular passenger and cargo operations including some search and rescue and flights to the Antarctic/Arctic regions. The first planes to be part of the aviation services fleet were the Ford Tri-Motors. Some of them were converted to firefighters while others were adapted for civilian parachute operations with professional sky diving teams. Those planes did not receive any special markings as all those services were encompassed into the general "Air Services" from the early Altair days. Besides the Ford 5AT Tri-Motor from 1948 to 1960, Altair Aviation also had the Douglas DC-4 (1960 - 1989), the Boeing B377 (1968 - 1989), the Douglas DC-6B (1989 - 2004) and from 2004 on the Douglas DC-7C and the well known Bell 205A-1 "Huey" helicopter. This last one was the first helicopter to be introduced to the Altair service. They have special adaptations, like other AVAS aircraft, to be able to perform their missions. One Huey was incorporated to the Altair Aviation Firefighting service. This is the AVAS-AFF branch, or, Altair Virtual Aviation - Aerial Fire Fighting Services. Another modified Huey is incorporated into the AVAS-AAR, Aerial Ambulance and Rescue branch. Other two choppers wear the colours of AVAS-AGR, Agricultural Division, one as a Crop Duster and the other as Seed Sower. The last helicopter belongs to AVAS-OPS, the Special Operations branch from Altair Aviation that perform various "general purpose" tasks.
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