Boris Johnson’s RAF Voyager plane takes to the air after its new £900,000 patriotic paint job


Boris Johnson’s RAF Voyager plane took off for the first time today after receiving a £900,000 red, white and blue paint job.  

The jet’s tail fin had previously been spotted inside a hangar at an airfield in Cambridgeshire, where it underwent a new Brexit paint job to help the PM fly the flag for the UK when he travels to international summits. 

Ministers hope the new design – which is much more visible than the usual military grey – will help boost ‘Brand Britain’ abroad, although critics have mocked it as an expensive folly that will make Mr Johnson look like Austin Powers on tour. 

The new appearance bears a striking resemblance to the retro livery that adorned the British Airways fleet from 1974 to 1980, known as the Negus design. 

The RAF Voyager aircraft emerged from a hangar at Cambridge City Airport today, where it has undergone a £900,000 paint job

The jet's tail fin could be seen inside a hangar at an airfield in Cambridgeshire, where it is getting a new Brexit paint job to help the PM fly the flag for the UK when he travels to international summits

The jet’s tail fin could be seen inside a hangar at an airfield in Cambridgeshire, where it is getting a new Brexit paint job to help the PM fly the flag for the UK when he travels to international summits

The new appearance bears a striking resemblance to the retro livery that adorned the British Airways fleet from 1974 to 1980, which was known as the Negus design

The new appearance bears a striking resemblance to the retro livery that adorned the British Airways fleet from 1974 to 1980, which was known as the Negus design

Britain does not have a prime ministerial plane used solely by Downing Street, unlike many other countries such as America’s presidential jet, Air Force One.

Labour said it showed the government had the wrong ‘priorities’ when people across the country were worried about jobs and the education of their children.

But Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said the government was willing to spend money to ‘promote’ the UK abroad. ‘The work on voyager is part of that promotion,’ he told the daily coronavirus briefing.

Downing Street also defended the £900,000 price tag. ‘This will mean that the plane can better represent the UK around the world with national branding, similar to many other leaders’ planes, while also retaining its military air-to-air refuelling capability,’ a spokesman said.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said the government was willing to spend money to 'promote' the UK abroad

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said the government was willing to spend money to ‘promote’ the UK abroad

On the cost, the spokesman said: ‘That incorporates the cost of creating a design that will promote the UK around the world without compromising the plane’s vital military role.

‘At every stage we have worked to ensure value for money for the UK taxpayer and all of the work has been undertaken in the UK, directly benefiting British suppliers.

The Voyager aircraft used by the PM (pictured at PMQs today) on foreign trips is to get ‘national branding’, rather than the standard grey that makes it less visible in the sky

Red, white and blue will be painted on the rear of its fuselage and up the fin. It is expected to be unveiled in the coming days.

The interior of the Voyager had a £10million makeover in 2016, when David Cameron was prime minister. Mr Johnson and other ministers, as well as members of the Royal Family, will be allowed to use the plane, which will also continue to be used as a refuelling aircraft. 

The Negus livery first adorned the British Airways fleet from 1974 to 1980, directly after the merger of BOAC and BEA, which led to the formation of the airline customers know today.

When it initially flew, the Negus livery was the first time an aircraft had carried ‘British Airways’ since 1939, back when  the original British Airways Limited merged with Imperial Airways to form BOAC.

In the design, the Union Jack is not present on the body of the plane and is instead adorned on the tailfin of the aircraft. 

The livery was designed by creative agency Negus & Negus, giving it its name. As BEA and BOAC merged to become British Airways in 1974, elements of both of their liveries were incorporated together to create the Negus. 

Now, to mark BA’s centenary, a Boeing 747 will be repainted in the Negus design. 

The 747-400, registration G-CIVB, entered the IAC paint bay at Dublin Airport last Saturday where it is being repainted with the first version of the Negus livery. 

The repainted 747 will return to Heathrow and enter service later this month flying to long-haul destinations served by the Boeing 747, with the design remaining on the aircraft until it retires in 2022.

The Negus is the fourth and final heritage design to be painted on a British Airways aircraft. 

Alex Cruz, British Airways’ Chairman and CEO, said: ‘Rumours have been circulating for quite some time about this final livery, so it’s exciting to confirm it is the Negus design. It’s particularly significant for us because it’s the first design worn by the British Airways that we all know today, with the distinctive lower case ‘a’ and the Union Flag on the tailfin.’ 

Several tiers of scaffolding was seen set up around the plane at a hangar in Cambridgeshire today while the works took place

Several tiers of scaffolding was seen set up around the plane at a hangar in Cambridgeshire today while the works took place

A file photo of the RAF Voyager in its usual military grey, which makes it less visible in the sky - unlike the colourful new design

A file photo of the RAF Voyager in its usual military grey, which makes it less visible in the sky – unlike the colourful new design 

An RAF source said: ‘Boris and others will use it to go around the world and wave the British flag.

‘It will be diplomatic and it will be appropriate. I imagine it will be in great demand when it gets its new and smart paint job.’

The source played down the prospect of a lurid Austin Powers look for the plane, adding: ‘The aircraft will not be a flying Union Jack. It won’t be the whole of the airplane, it will be a part of it.’

The source said the plane could be changed back to grey ‘very quickly’ if deemed necessary in a wartime scenario.

‘It will have a lot of functionalities. If we went to war, and all the assets needed to deploy to the Middle East for example, we would change the colour,’ they said.

Labour’s Louise Haigh said: ‘When families across the country are worried about their jobs, health and the education of their children, they will rightly question the Government’s priorities when they are spending almost a million pounds redecorating a plane which in all likelihood has been grounded for months because of the coronavirus.’

The expensive paint job was panned by critics, who suggested it would make the PM look like Austin Powers on tour

The expensive paint job was panned by critics, who suggested it would make the PM look like Austin Powers on tour

He said that the leaked diagram, which was being shared among the aviation industry as early as Wednesday night, seemed 'legitimate'

He said that the leaked diagram, which was being shared among the aviation industry as early as Wednesday night, seemed ‘legitimate’

In May 2018 Mr Johnson asked why the Voyager needed to be grey as he said he needed his own plane in order to boost Britain’s post-Brexit trade prospects.

Speaking when he was foreign secretary, he said he and other Cabinet ministers needed another aircraft as the Voyager, used by Mr Cameron when he was prime minister, was rarely available.

He said: ‘What I will say about the Voyager, I think it’s great, but it seems to be very difficult to get hold of… I don’t know who uses it, but it never seems to be available.’

Mr Johnson added that it was ‘striking’ such a plane did not yet exist and suggested that it could be a different colour.

He added: ‘And also, why does it have to be grey? The taxpayers won’t want us to have some luxurious new plane. But I certainly think it’s striking that we don’t seem to have access to such a thing at the moment.’

A spokesman for the RAF said: ‘An RAF Voyager is currently in Cambridgeshire for pre-planned works.’

The history behind British Airways’ iconic Negus design

Boris Johnson’s new £900,000 red, white and blue RAF Voyager plane bears a striking resemblance to the retro Negus livery. 

The Negus livery first adorned the British Airways fleet from 1974 to 1980, directly after the merger of BOAC and BEA, which led to the formation of the airline customers know today.

When it initially flew, the Negus livery was the first time an aircraft had carried ‘British Airways’ since 1939, back when  the original British Airways Limited merged with Imperial Airways to form BOAC.

In the design, the Union Jack is not present on the body of the plane and is instead adorned on the tailfin of the aircraft. 

The livery was designed by creative agency Negus & Negus, giving it its name. 

As BEA and BOAC merged to become British Airways in 1974, elements of both of their liveries were incorporated together to create the Negus. 

Now, to mark BA’s centenary, a Boeing 747 will be repainted in the Negus design. 

The 747-400, registration G-CIVB, entered the IAC paint bay at Dublin Airport last Saturday where it is being repainted with the first version of the Negus livery. 

The repainted 747 will return to Heathrow and enter service later this month flying to long-haul destinations served by the Boeing 747, with the design remaining on the aircraft until it retires in 2022.

The Negus is the fourth and final heritage design to be painted on a British Airways aircraft. 

Alex Cruz, British Airways’ Chairman and CEO, said: ‘Rumours have been circulating for quite some time about this final livery, so it’s exciting to confirm it is the Negus design. It’s particularly significant for us because it’s the first design worn by the British Airways that we all know today, with the distinctive lower case ‘a’ and the Union Flag on the tailfin.’ 

Leave a Comment