Ribbons of Colour
The Baltic States, Latvia, Lithuania & Estonia, former Soviet regions experienced a transition not only to securing independence but over the past couple of decades in rebuilding aviation connectivity. Leading the way in this drive to fly has been Air Baltic of Latvia. The largest airline of the three countries, Air Baltic has been transformed into one of the most modern fleets in operation.
Image by Jean-Baptiste Rouer
A recent visit to Dublin by an “Ambassador” aircraft YL-CSK, brought this ribbon of colour to our shores. The 2018 yr Airbus A220-300 wearing the flamboyant special livery representing the national flag of Lithuania, performed scheduled service from Vilnius, Lithuania to Dublin return, arriving Tuesday 31st August at 12:28 before departing at 13:53 for the Lithuanian capital. Not for the first time has YL-CSK been a visitor to Dublin, the aircraft flying the 3 hr route on numerous previous occasions and also from Riga with a similar or slightly shorter flight time.
Air Baltic, with Home Base at Riga International Airport, operates one of the youngest fleets in Europe and indeed the world, with an average aircraft age of just two and a half years. Reason for this youthful gathering? The airline began a fleet renewal programme in 2016, with the airlines first Bombardier CS300 being delivered end of November. Since then, 29 of the type have joined Air Baltic. Nine being the Bombardier CS300 between 2016 and start of 2018. The remaining 20 aircraft are all Airbus A220-300 which is essentially a rebranding of the original Bombardier model.
The A220-300 has the more unusual cabin configuration of 2 – 3 seat layout which is a novelty in a world of 3 – 3 or 2 – 2 arrangements. Capacity can be up to 149 passengers on the 300 series and up to 120 on the smaller A220-100 model.
Image by Andreas
Making way for the new-comers within the Air Baltic fleet was the airlines aging Boeing 737-300’s and ‘500’s along with retirement of the Dash-8 Q400 aircraft. An entirely A220-300 fleet is now operated and generally the switch has been positive from both airline & passenger perspectives. Air Baltic once had two B757-200’s under their wing and a number of Fokker 50’s, Saab 340’s and even RJ-70’s and a single BAe-146-200.
Fast forward and from 2018 special commemorative liveries based on the national flags of the three Baltic States were designed and applied to three A220-300’s in recognition of the solidarity between the neighbouring countries. YL-CSL received the flowing ribbons of colour of the Latvian flag and named ‘Riga’, YL-CSK was painted with colours from the Lithuanian flag and named ‘Vilnius’ and finally YL-CSJ fly’s in Estonian colours with title ‘Tallinn’ applied.
The three aircraft are spectacular and a privilege to view in an era of cost-cutting Euro-white fuselage aircraft. Which stands out as most appealing, is down to personal choice. The Estonian livery is certainly in the running as a favourite. A slight criticism would be the clash with the lime-green engine cowlings on each aircraft, which jars with the overall individual liveries.
Image by Thomas Arb
Maybe Aer Lingus or even Ryanair (which in the past revelled in ‘special liveries’) might take a leaf out of Air Baltic’s book and consider four ‘special liveries’ relating to the four provinces of Ireland. It could result in quite the splash of colour – just what’s needed to lift us all from recent gloom!
Images by Jean-Baptiste Rouer (YL-CSK), Andreas (YL-CSJ) & Thomas Arb (YL-CSL)