Flying tigers at my airport? It's more likely than you think thanks to Russian airline Transaero, one of whose jets has been painted in the likeness of a Siberian Tiger's face.
Russian carrier Transaero (active 1990 through 2015) may have left the skies to competitors but if it's remembered for anything, it'll be a Boeing 747 “jumbo jet” with the face of an endangered Siberian (or Amur) Tiger.
The long-haul Boeing 747-400 was painted to promote the the Amur Tiger Center, "an autonomous non-commercial organization established for preservation and researching the Amur tiger population founded in July of 2013 at the initiative of President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin."
“It is hoped that the design will help (raise) awareness of the Amur tiger worldwide,” stated Transaero CEO Olga Pleshakova during the one-of-a-kind jet's ceremonial unveiling at Moscow's Vnukovo airport.
Pleshakova explained that the 447-seat plane will also feature sections of the interior cabin decorated in a tiger-striped theme. “Careful conservation of wildlife is a task to which no one should remain indifferent", added Pleahakova.
Painting – or in this case, airbrushing – an airliner is no small task, especially one as large as a 747. The process ended up taking a full five days to complete, and called for the expertise of skilled airbrushers who had honed their craft on cars and airplanes and cars over the past 30 years. A special radio-transparent paint was required so as not to interfere with sensitive locator equipment installed in the bow.
Under the impetus of President Putin, a long-time champion of wildlife conservation, Russia launched a national strategy to protect the Amur Tiger. The number of tigers living in Russia's Far East is on the rise but the species remains critically threatened.
A large-scale census recently conducted cooperatively by the WWF, Russia's Ministry of Natural Resources and the Amur Tiger Center found only about 540 of the big cats in the wild. Although Transaero may be extinct, they deserve plaudits for helping a threatened species avoid a similar fate. (via The Siberian Times, images via Nik Pilgrim and Serge Zykov)