$500,000 grant from federal funding pays for custom paint job on company's passenger jetAnchorage Daily News
Oct. 03, 2005
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So, you landed a big king salmon this summer? It can't compare to the colossal king Alaska Airlines plans to land this morning in Anchorage.
The Seattle-based carrier has painted nearly the full length of a Boeing 737-400 passenger jet as a wild Alaska king, or chinook, salmon. The airline has dubbed its flying fish the "Salmon-Thirty-Salmon."
It's a bold promotional move to celebrate wild Alaska seafood and also the carrier's role in hauling millions of pounds of fresh salmon, halibut, crab, shrimp and other seafood out of the state each year.
The fishy paint job was done on a grand scale, company spokesmen said. A team of 30 painters and airbrush artists used more than 140 gallons of paint and took 24 days to render the lifelike chinook -- triple the time normally needed to coat an airliner.
"There's no question, at least in my mind, that this is the finest airline art ever conceived," said Bill MacKay, the company's Anchorage-based senior vice president. "People will just be amazed at the detail."
A local nonprofit agency, the Alaska Fisheries Marketing Board, gave Alaska Airlines a $500,000 grant to paint the jet. The money came out of about $29 million in federal funding U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska and his congressional colleagues have appropriated to the marketing board, created in 2003, to promote and enhance the value of Alaska seafood. The senator's son, state Sen. Ben Stevens, is chairman of the agency's board of directors.
The state's commercial salmon industry has struggled for years due to competition from foreign, farm-raised salmon, but the promotional dollars are helping the industry make a comeback, said Bill Hines, the marketing board's executive director.
Many commercial fishermen and industry boosters have dreamed of seeing an Alaska Airlines jet emblazoned with a fish, Hines said. Alaska Airlines approached the marketing board with the idea, and the board awarded the grant.
"I thought the concept was absolutely right on," Hines said. "You have a flying billboard going all over the West Coast as well as places like Chicago, Denver, Dallas and Mexico."
Alaska Airlines spokesmen say the salmon jet will be part of the carrier's regular passenger fleet, which will take it across more of the country than the combination passenger-cargo jets that serve rural Alaska and carry much of the state's prodigious seafood harvest.
The jet isn't the airline's only plane with a themed paint job. It also has two jets bearing Walt Disney characters such as Mickey Mouse and Tinker Bell.
The salmon jet will fly four or five years before it needs new paint, and it's possible the chinook will get another tour, airline spokeswoman Amanda Tobin said.
Matt Yerbic, managing director of cargo, said Alaska Airlines will carry between 30 and 40 million pounds of seafood this year.
"That should be an all-time record for us," he said.
The salmon jet will call attention to the state's wild fish and the seafood industry's close partnership with Alaska Airlines, which serves many important Alaska fishing ports, airline executives said.
"We're hopeful this is going to create quite a stir," MacKay said. Hines is sure of that.
The jetliner is about 120 feet long, with the speckled blue and silver chinook running from just behind the pilot's window all the way back along the fuselage and, swish, up the tail fin.
"I mean, this thing is going to turn heads," Hines said. "It's a very visible symbol."
Daily News reporter Wesley Loy can be reached at [email protected] or 257-4590.
Alaska Airlines chinook runs to begin today in Anchorage
The Alaska Airlines salmon jet is to make its local debut when it arrives as Flight 95 with a load of regular passengers and dignitaries at 11:48 a.m. today at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport.
Gov. Frank Murkowski, with several hundred airline workers and invited guests, will fete the plane with a seafood barbecue and Native dancers.
The plane will depart Anchorage as Flight 66 at 4:01 p.m., stopping in Cordova at 4:49 p.m., Yakutat at 6:11 p.m. and Juneau at 7:33 p.m. before landing back in Seattle at 11:25 p.m.