BA tail fin design

British Airways, how we designed the new tail fin.

It is hard to believe that 20 years ago British Airways had a large number of the tail fins on their international aircraft painted with ethnic designs.

BA had not taken into account that their customers wanted to fly British with the result that the 'ethnic' and 'jungle' mixture proved unpopular with the travelling public, a matter made worse by the fact that Virgin Atlantic had chosen the Union flag as their basic design.  Virgin had become more British than the national carrier.

BA tail fin ethnic

Looking for a solution British Airways turned to the Admirals Original flag loft at Chatham (then owned by ourselves). It was at Chatham that Nelson had the signal flags made for HMS Victory, England Expects and so on.

When another flag making company pulled out of owning the Chatham flag loft, we decided to take over the lease, changed the name to the Admirals Original Flag Loft and take on an experienced manager, who until fairly recently back then had just been made redundant when another flag maker which had closed down.

BA tail fin design

The request from BA was to design a Union flag best suited to the tail fin of their aircraft.  We drew up a quick sketch which cost BA nothing and that is the basis of what you see today.

And what did we -as the Admirals Original Flag Loft, a small business - get out of this creativity? Nothing much, but for many years there was a plaque in each of the relevant aircraft inside the door, stating that the designer of the tail fin decoration was attributed to the Admirals Original Flag Loft at Chatham.

This shows that corporate identity need not cost a lot or indeed anything at all.

Sadly our airports do not seem to be as flag orientated as they were in my youth (1950s and 1960s) though it is of interest that we have recently had several orders for the UK civil Air Ensign, a flag commonly flown at each airport in my youth and in the heady days of BOAC and national pride.

How many Brits these days would know what a UK civil Air Ensign looks like I wonder?  Its not the RAF Ensign which is of course exclusive to the RAF but a different design altogether.

UK air ensign

The air ensign is featured in the Westminster parliament flag book issued in partnership with the Flag Institute, but for those who do not know, the UK Air Ensign is much like the Naval white Ensign except that the ‘duster’ (the fly end) is air force blue instead of white while the cross is Royal blue fimbriated white, which replaces the red cross of the white ensign and remains popular with retired Airline pilots who wish to make a statement in their gardens, castle and on board.

Robin Ashburner, 18th February 2016

Jo Ashburner-Farr

Please leave a comment

Please note: comments must be approved before they are published.

Left Continue shopping
Your order

Oh no! You have no items in your cart