Monday, May 20, 2024
HomeNews ReportsFact-check: An aircraft was not specially painted to bring 8 cheetahs to India, read...

Fact-check: An aircraft was not specially painted to bring 8 cheetahs to India, read details about the Boeing 747 with Siberian tiger face

The tiger face was painted on the nose of the Boeing 747-400 in 2015 by Russian airline Transaero, which owned the plane at that time, in collaboration with Amur Tiger Centre to promote the conservation of Siberian tigers

A special Boeing 747 jet landed at Gwalior Airport in Madhya Pradesh on Saturday morning, carrying 8 cheetahs from Namibia. The big cats have been brought from Africa as part of the Cheetah reintroduction program, and were released in the Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh today by PM Narendra Modi. But while reporting the translocation, several media houses published misleading information, when they claimed that the plane was painted with a face of a tiger especially for this occasion.

When the special plane landed at the Namibian capital of Windhoek to pick up the cheetahs, the images of the aircraft went viral. The face of a tiger was seen painted on the nose of the Boeing 747, and the media reports said that the plane has been specially painted with the face of the tiger for the special operation of translocating the cheetahs from one continent to another. But this was completely wrong information.

Talking about the customisation of the plane, India Today wrote, “The B747 has been painted with the face of a tiger, signifying the importance of the flight mission.” The Hindu said that “it has been painted with the image of a tiger”, apart from the modification of the cabin. India TV also made the same claim. Hindustan Times went ahead and claimed that it was a cheetah face painted on the plane.

Several other media reports made the same claim, that the plane has been specially painted with a face of a tiger for the occasion. However, some others reported that the plane has a tiger face painted on its nose, but didn’t say it has been specially painted for the translocation of the cheetahs.

The fact check

All these reports claiming that the tiger face was painted for a single flight are wong, and the plane was not specially painted with a tiger face for the cheetah transfer to India. The fact is, the tiger face on the nose of the Boeing 747 plane is there for the last several years. And either coincidently or by design, a plane with a tiger face on its nose was used for the transfer of the cheetahs from Namibia to India.

The first clue that it was not painted for the cheetah transfer is in the image itself, as it is a tiger face. If it was specially painted for the cheetah transfer, they would have painted a cheetah face on it.

The tiger face was painted on the nose of the aircraft in 2015, by Russian airline Transaero, which owned the plane at that time. It is a Siberian (or Amur) Tiger face, and it was painted to create awareness about the need to protect the tigers and the environment as a whole. The tiger face livery was a joint venture between Amur Tiger Centre and Transaero Airlines. Set up by the Russian Geographic Society at the initiative of President Vladimir Putin, the Amur Tiger Centre works on the preservation and research of the Amur tiger population in Russia.

Transaero Boeing 747 with tiger face on the nose

The tiger livery on the nose of the plane was unveiled by Transaero Airlines at the Moscow Vnukovo airport in June 2015. The rest of the aircraft retained the standard livery of the airline, featuring the word Transaero on the fuselage and a red-blue design on the tailfin.

However, Transaero went bankrupt in 2015 itself, and the Boeing 747 was sent for storage at Teruel Airport in Spain in October 2015. In 2021, the plane was purchased by Sharjah-based Aquiline International, but it was not used and remained in storage. Then in March this year, Terra Avia of the European country Moldova leased the jumbo jet from Aquiline, and it finally left the storage after seven years.

The Boeing 747-400 was originally owned by Singapore Airlines in 2001, and it reached Transaero in 2012.

After leasing it, Terra Avia replaced the Transaero logo on the plane with its own but retained the special tiger face on the nose and the blue paint on the belly. In the photos of the aircraft during the transfer of the cheetahs, the Terra Avia logo can be seen on the aircraft. Terra Avia offers its planes on rental, including this Boeing 747-400.

The Boeing 747 with tiger face in Terra Avia livery

Therefore, the aircraft was not painted with the tiger face for the operation, it was already there for the last seven years. But the aircraft did undergo significant modification for the operation. The interior of the plane was modified, and all economy class seats were removed to place the cages of the cheetahs.

It is not known whether this particular plane was chosen for the tiger nose, or it was just a coincidence. But most likely it was a coincidence, as not too many jumbo passenger jets are available from where the seats can be removed for a single flight.

In general, animals are transported by cargo planes, or in the cargo section of passenger planes. But that was not an option for the travel of the cheetahs. Veterinary experts travelled with the cheetahs, along with others associated with the project. The veterinary staff needed to keep monitoring the animals during the long transcontinental flight, and therefore both the cheetahs and the people needed to be in the passenger cabin. That is why the cheetahs were placed in the economy section by removing the seats, while the people accompanying them occupied the first-class and business-class seats. This would not have been possible in a cargo plane, or if the cheetahs were placed in the cargo hold of a passenger flight.

All kinds of precautionary measures were taken during the flight, including carrying a full set of spare wheels. In case the aircraft suffered wheel damage during take-off, they would have replaced them in the sky to avoid landing without wheels. Roman Trandafilov, the CEO of Aquiline which owns the plane said that the aircraft had underdone major maintenance a few weeks ago. The aircraft was arranged by Dubai-based Action Aviation for the Cheetah translocation project, which collaborated with the govt of India in the initiative.

Other planes with big cat faces

As the Transaero plane with the tiger face didn’t fly much as it was put in storage after a few months, later another Boeing 747’s nose was painted with the same Tiger face. In 2016, the tiger face was painted on the nose of a Boeing 747-400 belonging to Rossiya Airlines, which is a part of Russia’s flag carrier Aeroflot. Along with that, the face of an Amur Leopard was also painted on a Boeing 777 of the Rossiya Airlines.

Rossiya Boeing 747 with tiger face
Rossiya Boeing 777 with leopard face

All the big cat faces were painted on the nose of the planes by hand, using a pre-designed sketch. A 2016 video shows the painting process of the Rossiya Boeing 747, including the tiger face on the nose.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

  Support Us  

Whether NDTV or 'The Wire', they never have to worry about funds. In name of saving democracy, they get money from various sources. We need your support to fight them. Please contribute whatever you can afford

Raju Das
Raju Das
Corporate Dropout, Freelance Translator

Related Articles

Trending now

Recently Popular

- Advertisement -