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Logo Lineage Part 5: What Was Old Is New Again

An Air Tanzania Boeing 737-200 in a new livery. (Photo: Konstantin von Wedelstaedt [GFDL 1.2 (http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html) or GFDL 1.2 (http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html)])

For businesses across the world, branding plays a crucial role in public perception and airlines are no different. One of the most prominent pieces of an airline’s brand is its logo, as it often appears on a wide range of items including aircraft, seats, food, advertisements and more. In this multi-part series, we will look into some of the local ties and histories from which some logos are born and how they have grown or evolved over the years.

We continue our tour of Africa as we turn to two airlines that trace their roots back to the disbanding of East African Airways in Air Tanzania and Uganda Airlines. Both share the national animal as their corporate logo, their debt-plagued backstories and their fresh starts with a familiar logo once again returning to the skies.

Air Tanzania

Originally created in 1977, Air Tanzania was one of the many airlines that arose from the collapse of East African Airways. Although Tanzania hoped that the new airline would branch away from its previous livery, East African’s history of using an animal as a form of advertisement would live on in the new carrier. The animal of choice, however, would be different with East African’s logo of a lion being retired for Air Tanzania’s logo of a giraffe.

The choice of the giraffe for the new logo was an easy one for Air Tanzania since the country’s national animal is the giraffe. The animal is a symbol of being a visionary and being able to look ahead to the future while also back to the past. Held sacred in Tanzania, giraffes are protected by law and killing one in Tanzanian territory is a crime that can result in jail time.

Alongside the national animal, a livery that incorporated the national flag would be created for Air Tanzania. The airline’s first livery was made up of the country’s flag colors of moderate green, light blue and luminous vivid amber with the top of the fuselage being solid light blue with an amber cheatline. Another blue stripe and moderate green stripe would lead to a white underbelly.

An Air Tanzania Boeing 737-200. (Photo: Bob Adams from George, South Africa [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)])

The airline’s name would appear in either two locations. On high wing aircraft, it was written on the white underbelly in blue and on low in aircraft it was written in the blue upper fuselage in white. The giraffe would appear on an all-white tail.

Although the airline struggled, the livery remained unchanged as Air Tanzania was trying to establish alliances and a route network that was sustainable for the airline. The lion logo would return in 1995 after the creation of Alliance Air, a joint effort between Air Tanzania, South African Airways and Uganda Airlines to create a long-haul flight from Dar el Salaam to London-Heathrow that all three airlines could benefit from. However, this joint effort was not profitable and would be disbanded after five years of flights.

An Alliance Air Boeing 747SP (Photo: Michel Gilliand [GFDL 1.2 (http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html) or GFDL 1.2 (http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html)])

Around the same time, the government of Tanzania was looking to restructure and privatize its flag carrier. After hearing bids from various airlines, a deal was reached between Tanzania and South African Airways (SAA) to sell SAA a 49 percent stake in the airline, with the government holding on to 41 percent and the rest being owned by other smaller local investors.

Under South African Airways guidance, Air Tanzania would dump the long withstanding national animal in favor of repeating what SAA had done five years earlier. After successfully rebranding themselves using the national flag as a tail livery, SAA would do the same to Air Tanzania with a new livery, logo and identity.

A South African Airways A340-600. (Photo: Konstantin von Wedelstaedt [GFDL 1.2 (http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html) or GFDL 1.2 (http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html)], via Wikimedia Commons)

The new livery paralleled that of the parent company, with an all-white fuselage leading to tail that consisted of the Tanzanian flag’s colors. In the center of the amber tail stripe was a black arrow. Eventual cries for the return of the giraffe would be heard and the animal would be added to the forward fuselage of the aircraft between the main boarding door and cockpit windows.

An Air Tanzania Boeing 737-200 in a new livery. (Photo: Konstantin von Wedelstaedt [GFDL 1.2 (http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html) or GFDL 1.2 (http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html)])

But under South African’s leadership, Air Tanzania didn’t improve and the Tanzanian government was not comfortable with how financially low to the ground the airline was operating. The government would step in September 2007 and buy out the South African stock, making the government, once again, the largest shareholder of its flag carrier.

Back under government control, the new leadership decided to move away from the failed South African logo and back to selling the country for what it was known for. When the airline unveiled its newest slogan in 2008, the marketing strategy revolved around selling the airline’s location to Mount Kilimanjaro, a popular eco-tourism attraction in the country’s northwest region.

The airline’s slogan then became “The Wings of Kilimanjaro” and a new logo would be created involving the airline’s initials, AT, forming the shape of a mountain. The airline has since used the mountain logo as its main logo for all branding due to its simpler design and collaboration with the theme of selling the homeland of Mount Kilimanjaro to the public.

Alongside the new logo came the return of the giraffe to the tail of the aircraft. A new livery was unveiled that saw the giraffe be applied to a light blue tail and a mostly white fuselage. The national animal was altered from its previous form to be in a run instead of standing. The airline’s new mountain inspired logo would be placed on the forward fuselage just behind the forward boarding doors. Behind the logo would sit the airline’s name in light blue and slogan in moderate green.

An Air Tanzania Airbus A320. (Photo: Air Tanzania [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)])

Despite a return to the vintage feel of the airline, nostalgia could not save the airline from the financial hole as the airline has faced various corruption crimes and fleet repossessions over the previous few years. To allow the airline breathing space, the Tanzanian government decided to start restructuring the airline and start a fleet renovation that would give the debt-ridden carrier new life.

During Tanzanian President John Magufuli’s tenure, the airline has acquired new aircraft such as the Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner and Airbus A220. The ultra-modern aircraft were acquired through the Tanzanian Government Flight Agency and leased to Air Tanzania.

With the new fleet now mostly delivered, Tanzania hopes that the flag carrier can become self-sufficient in its new form and that the new fleet can at least reduce fuel costs as part of the cost-shedding plans. The new additions to the fleet also saw a small livery change as the giraffe was altered from his 2008 running stance back to the 1977 standing pose.

Uganda Airlines/Air Uganda

Similar to Air Tanzania, Uganda Airlines traces its roots back to the collapse and disbandment of East African Airways. Much like its fellow startup to the south, Uganda would also turn to its national animal to be its airline’s logo, using the crane as the main logo for the airline.

The crane has close-knit ties to the Ugandan people. The bird is the national animal and appears on various facets of government including the coat of arms, the country’s flag, and with the national football team, the Ugandan Cranes.

The crane, more specifically the grey-crowned crane, has been known to live in the eastern African regions despite its recent movement onto the endangered species list. Alongside the national animal, the airline would also implement the country’s flag colors of red, yellow and black into its branding and logo.

In its first iteration that launched in 1977, Uganda opted to vary the crane to make the bird appear more streamlined than it appeared on the national flag or coat of arms. The winged creature was in motion in a v-formation, with a black outline being trailed by red and yellow. The airline’s fuselage would contain the words “Uganda Airlines” behind the forward boarding door and the carrier’s livery would feature red, black and yellow cheatlines.

A Ugandan Airlines Boeing 707-300 in Rome. (Photo: Aldo Bidini [GFDL 1.2 (http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html) or GFDL 1.2 (http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html)])

While the airline had an overall branding style, it lacked consistency in how the logo and livery were used. Uganda would operate a mix of Boeing 707s, 727s, 737s and smaller de Havilland Otters and Britten Norman Islanders of which the airline would see various designs. For example, most aircraft would be given the crane logo with a ring around the outside, but some aircraft had the bird with no ring, some had no bird at all and one Boeing 707 never got a crane, getting the entire Ugandan flag on the tail instead.

Due to a poor management structure and a failing route map coupled with high oil prices, Uganda Airlines bled cash and as the 1990s rolled on the government looked to privatize the failing airline. Bids were submitted but all would be withdrawn or rejected as the flag carrier would instead be liquidated in 2001.

But after Uganda Airlines would fail due to a lack of privatization, the crane would once again take flight seven years later with a group of private investors. The new airline, named Air Uganda, would operate rear engined aircraft like the McDonnell-Douglas MD-80 and Bombardier CRJ-200 in hopes of reconnecting Uganda to the world.

Much like the previous airline, Air Uganda would turn to the crane for its logo, using the crane depicted on the country’s flag with the bird being tail to tail with another crane. The logo would highlight the bird’s natural features, including a red tail and golden features, similar to those found on the grey-crowned crane.

An Air Uganda MD-88. (Photo: Aldo Bidini [GFDL 1.2 (http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html) or GFDL 1.2 (http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html)])

Unlike Uganda Airlines, Air Uganda would drop the flag colors as the airline would operate with a white fuselage and black tail. This livery was standard for the parent company Celestair Group, who used similar branding and liveries on their other two airlines in Mali and Burkina Faso.

However, airline operations in Uganda would come into scrutiny after the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) said the Ugandan Civil Aviation Authority (UCAA) was not properly governing airlines in the region. As a result, the UCAA would review all carriers and find that Air Uganda was not worthy of flight. The airline’s operating certificate would be suspended in 2014 and Celestair would quietly disband the airline afterward.

Back to having no airline, the Ugandan government has started to take steps to relaunch the failed carrier from 2001. Uganda Airlines is expected to be airborne in the next year and profitable by 2029 as the new look crane is on pace to fly again. Uganda will operate a state-of-the-art fleet consisting of four factory fresh Bombardier CRJ-900s and two Airbus A330-800neos. The airline took hold of its first two Bombardier airframes in April and is expecting the first Airbus in 2020.

As for the new logo and livery, Uganda will return to the crane but dump the old 1977s logo in favor of a new one that mirrors that of the bird on the country’s flag. The white and black color bird will also still have the red tail feathers and red and white alternating feathers on the head. The bird appears on the tail of the aircraft with alternating bands of red, yellow and black extending from under the fuselage to the top of the tail.

While the new airline is not ready for service yet, the Uganda government hopes airline can live up to the slogan on the side and that people will “Fly the Crane to the Peal of Africa.”

Ian McMurtry


  • Ian McMurtry

    Although Ian McMurtry was never originally an avgeek, he did enjoy watching US Airways aircraft across western Pennsylvania in the early 2000s. He lived along the Pennsylvania Railroad and took a liking to trains but a change of scenery in the mid-2000s saw him shift more of an interest into aviation. He would eventually express this passion by taking flying lessons in mid-Missouri and joining AirlineGeeks in 2013. Now living in Wichita, Kansas, Ian is in college majoring in aerospace engineering and minoring in business administration at Wichita State University.

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