China first sent an Olympics delegation in 1984, to Los Angeles, and it was CAAC which flew them their. Air China represents the fag carrier portion of the original monolithic CAAC and was presented on March 12, 2008 with the role of torch carrier by the Beijing Organizing Committee for the games. As you'd expect Air China's General Manager, Western USA - Zhihang Chi said:
"We're honored to carry the Olympic flame around the globe, and help deliver its message of hope and unity for the world. Involvement in the Olympic movement supports our international marketing and service initiatives to further enhance Air China's profile and brand recognition in the international community,"
Ms. Zhang Lan, Vice President of Air China, said, "The torch relay is a significant event before the opening of the Olympic Games. As the carrier of the overseas charter flight for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games torch relay, Air China will spread traditional Chinese culture to the whole world. In addition, the staff of Air China will also aim to develop the Olympic spirit of 'faster, higher and stronger', by improving their products and services constantly, and serving passengers who are always concerned about and trust Air China."
Interestingly Olympic regulations require that two flames travel the world in case one goes out! They are carried in special safety lanterns and the interior of the airliner chosen by Air China to fly the flames was modified to enable the lanterns to maintain their staility inflight. This aircraft was the Airbus A330-243 B-6075. Air China acquired its first A330 in May 2006 and by November had five in the fleet – B-6070-73 and 6075.
The aircraft was decorated with an attractive livery showcasing the Olympic Sacred Flames and was unveiled on March 27 ready for her flight to Athens on March 29. Following collection of the flames she flew to 21 cities on 5 continents around the world covering 137,000 km (85,077 miles) in 130 days. She then undertook a tour of Chinese cities until the opening ceremony on August 8. During the torch events at each city there were 20,000 torchbearers and 5,000 escort runners involved.
Nonetheless from an aviation perspective the relay was a success. Subsequently B-6075 was put back into standard service and repainted in the Zijin Hao 'Forbidden Pavilion Liner' scheme. This even more impressive scheme will be the focus of part 2 of our look at Air China A330 special schemes.
2008, March. Air China Successfully Wins The Title of "Designated Olympic Torch Carrier". China Aviation Daily
2008, April. Air China Carries the Olympic Torch around the Globe. Business Wire.com
2008. Air China Olympic Torch Relay A330. JetPhotos forums
2008 Summer Olympics torch relay. Wikipedia
I'm Richard Stretton: a fan of classic airliners and airlines who enjoys exploring their history through my collection of die-cast airliners. If you enjoy the site please donate whatever you can to help keep it running: