On our long wait in Schiphol Airport, Tarun and I decided to finish our step goal before boarding our trans-Atlantic flight. We walked past many gates, tired passengers, crying babies, happy couples, and adventurous elders. This is KLM's hub so there were plenty of large jets to keep us entertained. The aging 747s, the swanky 787 with the mood windows, and the efficient 777s. As we rested near an empty gate, I saw a 777 with what looked like "Darjeeling Railway" emblazoned on the side of the nose. As I moved in closer, the train and plane wires in my brain crossed and caused a short circuit. It said exactly that! I clicked several pictures but the aircraft was too far and I couldn't get a clear photo. I found one on the net. Clearly, I did not imagine this!
Why do airlines name their aircrafts and what is the story behind these names?
When KLM acquired its 777 fleet, it picked names from the world heritage list. Borobudur, Chicen Itza, Darjeeling Railway, Epidaurus, Ferrara City, Galapagos Islands, Hadrian's Wall Iguaçu Park, and Kilimanjaro Park.
Our childhood memories of Darjeeling and its cute narrow gauge railway came alive at the airport. Darjeeling railway was built between 1879 and 1881, and goes from 100 ft of elevation to about 2,000 ft through several loops and zig zags to cope with the steep terrain. The tourist trains are still pulled by vintage British-built B-Class steam engines. I remember that my Dad has pictures of the train which I wish I could share with you. Instead, here's a glimpse from google.
The history of airlines naming aircrafts is fascinating.
Did you know that Hawaiian Airlines names its A330s after constellations? Or that Air Tahiti uses names of indigenous flowers and Tahitian islands? Qantas uses names of cities, as do El Al and Lufthansa. How about saints for Aer Lingus!
Virgin Atlantic wins for the most hilarious names: Jefferson Airplane, Unicorn Chaser, Screw it, let’s do it, An Airplane Named Desire, My Other Ride is a Spaceship, Scarlett O'Air, Spruce Moose and #nerdbird.
Ryan Air held a Facebook competition and picked 30 people to name planes after.
It makes sense that the tradition of naming planes originates from naming ships. Better to say you flew #nerdbird than Virgin 537, right? The origins are murky though. There's some history of names being derived from the plane's registration: “Dikke Dirk” (Fat Dirk) from H-NADD, for instance.
The creativity of "Darjeeling Railway" was refreshing and it made the moments in the terminal go by faster.
Sadly though, modern airlines are not naming their aircrafts as often. Even though we did not fly "Darjeeling Railway", maybe some day we might be in a train called "Bird in the Sky".
Amazing what you run into on your travels!