A new flying icon for our Airbus A350

By: Dave Gunner

August 14, 2019

After touching down at Gatwick after its delivery flight from Toulouse, our first Airbus A350, Red Velvet, embarks on a busy few weeks.

Between now and the first passenger flight of Red Velvet, there’s a lot to do. Familiarisation and training for the teams who’ll be working on the new aircraft. Final adjustments to the cabin and inflight entertainment systems. Test flights for pilot training, which will also help shake down all the onboard equipment and test the aircraft’s connectivity with our ground systems. The teams responsible for bringing our latest aircraft into service are working round the clock to make sure she’s ready to welcome her first customers on the 10th of September. It’s sure to be a proud moment for everyone here at Virgin Atlantic. One of the first jobs was one we’d really been looking forward to; applying the finishing touch to the livery of G-VLUX. It’s new flying icon.

The finishing touch

We’re marking this important arrival with a new iteration of our famous flying lady. Influenced by the nose art of World War 2 aircraft and designed by Peruvian artist Alberto Vargas, our ‘flying lady’ artwork has been a prominent part of our livery since the early days.

But now, with new aircraft, partnerships and routes, it feels like the time is right for a fresh and modern update to our nose art. So we’ve designed some new flying icons with different styles that are more representative of modern Britain, and we’re proud to have these diverse men and women onboard.

Lead Designer and Illustrator: Toby Tinsley. He was helped on the project by Illustrator: Fay Dalton and
Support and CGI: Michael Adamidis and Mike Griggs

Designing the icon

Today at the London Gatwick hangar, a team from our brand partners CGI Design applied the first of the new figures. Watching closely was Dave Napper, senior engineer in cabin design and development, who is responsible for livery application, and Toby Tinsley, who designed the new icons with illustrator Fay Dalton.

Toby is no stranger to Virgin icons having developed them for both Virgin Galactic and Virgin Voyages. The team worked on the design in tandem with our inhouse brand team for three months, deciding everything from the clothes they wear to the size of the flag as well as the pose and angle of the new figures. Once the design is complete, the decal then has its size and exact location on the aircraft decided, approved and drawn up. These designs will be flying around the world for many years, so it’s important to get them right. That’s why you might notice a few changes to the original designs we released a few months ago.

The CGI design team; Ash Blackford and Tommy Fuller, who applied the icon with their boss Raj Kumar


Once the design was finalised, CGI Graphics laser cut the decals and sent their team down to apply them to G-VLUX. They need to be replaced regularly, and the CGI team are experts in getting it right first time which is why they’ve supplied and fitted our icons for many years.


The vinyl decals have adhesive on one side, covered with transfer sheets, and the front of the figures are protected using tracing paper on the outer side. Following the cad drawings that show the exact location of the decals, the team began by washing the area using an alcohol wipe, then added thin red guide tape 10.7 inches from the door frame and 10 inches above the Red Velvet lettering.

Next, the four pieces of the icon transfer were taped together and placed on the aircraft. On the left-hand side the tip of the flag touches the guideline by the door, and the icon’s toe touches the base guideline. When everyone was happy, they peeled back half the transfer sheet and applied the decal using a squeegee. They’re always applied from the back to front to minimise the exposure of edges to the airflow. Microholes in the material help ensure there are no bubbles. Once applied, the tracing paper is peeled back to reveal the finished icon. The final job is to paint the edges of the decal with an edge sealant. The whole process took less than an hour for each side of the aircraft.

Dave Gunner

I love telling the story of our people, our planes, our places and our planet through Ruby Blog.

Categories: Our Aircraft