Industry Trends: Planes in Costume


It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s a… giant bag of gummy bears?

Vehicle wrapping and complex paint jobs have been low key everywhere in the custom car community. These techniques have allowed cars to be used as roving advertisements for businesses, and have given that extra something to modded whips. Enthusiasts have applied unique designs, colors and, you guessed it, glitter to their rides.

The custom paint trend is now being applied to largescale aircraft, and its use on planes and other flying machines has been huge—literally.

Alaska Airlines Spirit of Disneyland 737-400

Aircraft have been spotted in disguise, donning famous faces or identities altogether. Planes have been dressed up as a wide variety of characters from Disney classics, to Pokémon’s famed Pikachu, to what looks like a flying Iron Maiden band T-shirt.

Iron Maiden's Ed Force One Airplane

Designs are being executed with specific intentions. A plane disguised as a giant Duracell battery travels during the holidays to deliver donated gifts for Toys for Tots. More often though, these aircraft serve promotional purposes and have been popular with fans of the featured franchises or brands. Emirates, for example, has released a series for soccer lovers.

Real Madrid Emirates

Perhaps most notably, Nippon Airways put four Star Wars-themed jets into commercial service, flying internationally out of Tokyo. Last year, a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner was transformed into the lovable droid R2-D2, and a Boeing 777-300ER was painted in the likeness of one of the newest characters, BB-8. In March of this year, a Boeing 777 widebody jet began flying as Star Wars’ most fussy droid, C-3PO.


(Nippon Airways Star Wars display at Brussels Airport. Image by Brussels Airport / CC BY-SA 2.0)

Today, as many of us get into costume for Halloween with family and friends, what are your thoughts on this industry trend? Are disguised planes here to stay? We know one thing, designing and executing these paint jobs must have been a treat!