Alaska Airlines has had a long-time relationship with the Alaskan Salmon, In fact, in 1932, the airline took its first flight between Anchorage and Bristol Bay, home of the world’s most extensive sockeye salmon run. Since then its constantly been a part of distributing salmon across the States, so celebrating this ironic Alaskan export makes perfect sense. In fact, back in 2012 the airline re-released the iconic Salmon-thirty-salmon on the 737-800 for a second time.

As a beloved photo-op magnet – brought to life by Teague – the plane raised cries of upset when the airline announced it would retire the paint scheme, many unaware the airline was already working on a replacement.

Growing up near the shores of Juneau, Crystal Kaakeeyáa Rose Demientieff Worl was used to seeing Alaska Airlines fly over the mountains into her hometown. She says she dreamed of having her artwork displayed on a plane for years — and this month, that dream became a reality. “Every time I looked at an Alaska plane, I couldn’t help but visualise the salmon being in formline, or having some sort of design that represents identity. I can’t help but look at things and see how to Indigenise them,” says Crystal.

Last week saw the great reveal of Crystal’s latest masterpiece: Xáat Kwáani (Salmon People). It’s the first aircraft in the history of any domestic airline to be named in an Alaska Native language and to depict the ancestral importance through Northwest Coast formline art. It’s also a smart reflection of today’s graphic design trends. Flat bold shapes, bold bright colour blocks with contrasting neon accents are certainly reflective of many brand approaches in today’s consumer world. It’s why the livery will most likely feel familiar and on point for many.

Crystal’s expressive designs purposefully blend the old and new. Her work, whether it’s printmaking, painting or public art, recreates and modernizes her ancestors’ stories and explores the relationships and bonds that her people, the land and the animals share with Alaska so that generations learn its importance through traditional formline design, which dates back thousands of years. She says this aircraft will serve as a gateway to represent Alaska Natives, and she’s incredibly proud.

As a tribute to salmon and its ancestral importance, this aircraft is the first in the country to be named in an Alaska Native language and the first time Alaska Airlines has featured a language besides English on the main door of an aircraft.

During the design process, Crystal worked with people close to her and we shared the design with employees from Alaska Airlines’ Native Employee Network (NEN) business resource group, and multiple community leaders in Alaska, the Pacific Northwest and the West Coast. The design was then brought to life with a little help from Teague who brought the previous incarnation to life as well.

Crystal even redesigned the NEN logo with a fresh take on formline art, featuring the beloved salmon. Her mother, Beverly Demientieff, who is Deg Hit’an Athabascan from Holy Cross, Alaska, was actually one of the founding members of Alaska’s NEN group when she was a customer service agent in Fairbanks, Alaska. “Everything about this project has come together in a really beautiful, connected way,” she said.

“Having read about Crystal, seen her murals in Juneau and Anchorage and knowing her love of monumental art, she came to mind when we had the opportunity to paint a very large canvas— a 737-800,” said Marilyn Romano, regional vice president in Alaska. “Only this time, instead of remaining stationary and having viewers come to the art, we will take the art everywhere this plane flies, inviting guests to learn more about Alaska Native and Native American history, art, culture and language.”

The aircraft will appear across the airline’s network for many years to come.

As I do every year, I ask on your kind support to keep things going. If you are able to donate – whatever amount – it all gets funnelled back in to the site, to keep the site full of content. And I thank you personally for your kind support.

Posted by:Jonny Clark

2 replies on “Alaska Airlines launches new ‘Salmon’ Aircraft with a striking native design fit for the 21st Century.

  1. Gorgeous! I’d like to see this unique and amazing livery applied to every plane in Alaska’s fleet!

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