Names on a plane

Published on 15th June 2016 at 13:39
Avro 504K

Our first aircraft type – the Avro were named after figures from Greek mythology

People (ourselves included) have a massive soft spot for aircraft. So it’s no surprise that these magnificent machines have been given endearing nicknames over the years.

Out of sheer practicality, airlines (and aviation authorities) give each aircraft a unique registration to help tell them apart.

In Australia these all start with VH and within large fleets, tend to follow a clear pattern. We recycle the regos of our aircraft, so when a plane is retired, the rego is reused for another aircraft in the fleet.

Our first A380, for instance, was given the registration VH-OQA. The second one was OQB. And so on through the alphabet.

Plane spotters will tell you to look for the rego painted on the rear of the fuselage, on the top of the tail and on the front landing gear doors. There’s often a plate inside the door as you step on board.

Super Constellation

A Lockheed Super Constellation

At Qantas, we give individual aircraft names as well. And to be honest, this is purely for sentimental and symbolic reasons.

In the 1920s, three of our first aircraft – small props that flew mail runs across outback Queensland – were given the lofty and mythical names of Perseus, Pegasus and Iris.

Our Lockheed Super Constellation aircraft (which, as an aircraft type, went by simple abbreviation, Connies) all had the prefix “Southern” in their names – including Southern Sky and Southern Sea. When the jet age arrived our Boeing 707s and the early 747s were named after Australia’s capital cities and major centres.

This tradition continued with the Boeing 747-400 fleet. The first of them was called the City of Canberra, and was the aircraft that did the record-breaking 20 hour delivery flight non-stop from London to Sydney. (It’s now in retirement at an aviation museum south of Sydney). All of the -400s were also given a secondary name – Longreach.

A clever Qantas staff member suggested Longreach to not only recognise the Queensland town where Qantas first started but also the plane’s incredible range.

The City of Canberra - our first Boeing 747-400 now in retirement at an aviation museum in Wollongong

The City of Canberra – our first Boeing 747-400 now in retirement at an aviation museum in Wollongong

Our 737-400s (the last of which was retired in 2014) were named after Australian birds – lorikeet, kookaburra, brolga…you get the idea).

The 737-800s, which today do the bulk of our domestic flying, are named after Australian towns (Tamworth, Port Douglas, Oodnaddatta). The exception are the 737s dedicated to flying between Australia and New Zealand, which are mostly named for prominent Kiwis (like Sir Edmund Hillary).

Our 12-strong Airbus A380 fleet are named after pioneering figures of Australian aviation such as Nancy Bird-Walton who became the country’s first female commercial pilot and Reginald Ansett – the founder of Ansett Airlines which started flying in 1936. The founders of Qantas also have A380s named in their honour.

Fast forward and we’re ramping up our preparations to introduce the Boeing 787 Dreamliners – the first of which will take to the skies at the end of next year. We’re giving some careful thought to what they should be called.