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Livery of the Week: Southwest’s Shamu Scheme

The paint scheme lasted for over two decades on three different aircraft.

Southwest’s Shamu-themed livery (Photo: aeroprints.com, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons)

Editor’s Note: AirlineGeeks is proud to present our ‘Livery of the Week’ series. Every Friday, a team member will share an airline livery, which can be from the past, present, or even a special scheme. Some airline liveries are works of art. The complexity associated with painting around critical flight components and the added weight requires outside-the-box thinking from designers. The average airliner can cost upwards of $200,000 to repaint, creating a separate aircraft repainting industry as a result. 

Have an idea for a livery that we should highlight? Drop us a line

In 1988, Southwest Airlines, known for its line-up of special liveries, partnered with SeaWorld of Texas for a unique marketing campaign. The result? Shamu One, a Boeing 737-300 transformed into a flying killer whale.

Shamu, SeaWorld’s iconic orca, became the star of the show. The aircraft donned a black and white paint scheme, mimicking Shamu’s markings. The whale’s signature smile graced the nose, and its splash was depicted on the tail.

Shamu One wasn’t alone for long. Soon, Shamu Two and Shamu Three joined the fleet, bringing the Shamu experience to more flyers. These special liveries served as flying billboards, promoting both Southwest Airlines and SeaWorld across the country. The partnership lasted for over two decades, with Shamu-themed aircraft becoming a familiar sight in the skies.

However, by 2014, public perception of SeaWorld shifted due to concerns about animal welfare. Southwest Airlines responded by phasing out the Shamu livery. The whales eventually returned to their standard blue and gold color scheme.

Looking for a new airplane model? Head over to our friends at the Midwest Model Store for a wide selection of airlines and liveries.

Ryan Ewing
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  • Ryan Ewing

    Ryan founded AirlineGeeks.com back in February 2013 and has amassed considerable experience in the aviation sector. His work has been featured in several publications and news outlets, including CNN, WJLA, CNET, and Business Insider. During his time in the industry, he's worked in roles pertaining to airport/airline operations while holding a B.S. in Air Transportation Management from Arizona State University along with an MBA. Ryan has experience in several facets of the industry from behind the yoke of a Cessna 172 to interviewing airline industry executives. Ryan works for AirlineGeeks' owner FLYING Media, spearheading coverage in the commercial aviation space.

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