Rainbow Sevens: JAS 777s
The change to an international airline also coincided with a name change to Japan Air System, though the Airbus inspired livery remained the same. This was a period of great expansion for the new JAS with the NAMC YS-11s gradually leaving the fleet (some went to subsidiary Japan Air Commuter) and additions including a selection of new and secondhand jets.
The A300 fleet was being bolstered both with new and used aircraft. TDA had been an A300 customer since August 1980 but had been acquiring used A300B4s since 1987. These came from a variety of sources including Australian Airlines, Cruzeiro do Sul, VARIG, Hapag Lloyd, Air France and Egyptair. Only a single B4 (JA8237) had been delivered new, in March 1986. By 1990 8 B4s would be in JAS service and these were joined by new A300B4-622Rs from April 1991. 22 of the series 600s would arrive with deliveries stretching into 2002.
The narrowbody fleet was also being refreshed with ongoing MD-80 deliveries beginning the replacement of the DC-9s. These included short MD-87s from June 1988 9 of which would join the eventual other 25 standard length versions.
In the context of this fleet and business transformation it made sense for the airline to look at using larger aircraft since its competitors, All Nippon and JAL, already used 747s domestically on trunk routes. Accordingly JAS placed its own order for a large widebody in June 1993. Perhaps unsurprisingly this was with Boeing for 7 of its at the time unflown Boeing 777. The deal was valued at $820 million with deliveries scheduled to begin in the third quarer of 1996. JAs planned to put the aircraft into service on its Tokyo-Sapporo and Tokyo-Fukuoka services, which at the time were the two most densely travelled air routes in the world.
In preparation for delivery of its new 777s JAS ran a livery design competition, which was met with 10,364 entrants from 42 countries ranging from 3 to 84 years old. The entires were judged by a panel which included Akira Kurosawa - the legendary film-maker. Kurosawa was himself responsible for several of the special liveries that were worn by the company's 16 new MD-90s delivered from June 1995. In the end the winner of the 777 design was a 13 year old boy called Masatomo Watanabe from Chitose. The livery chosen was an unusual assymetric design with a swirling rainbow wrapping around the fuselage until it ended in a seeming smile under the nose. Interestingly only the 777s and MD-90s would wear the updated style liveries with the MD-80s and A300s remaining in the somewhat dated Airbus house colours style scheme.
JAS chose the Pratt & Whitney PW4084 engine for its 777s, which began to arrive from December 4, 1996. They were fitted in a 3 class layout and registered from JA8977-JA8979 and then JA007D-JA010D. The last frame arrived in May 1999. The introduction of the 777s was promoted by JAS with a Sky Lottery which ran from April-September 1997. Implemented on all domestic flights first prize winners were awarded 100,000 yen ($826) and second prize winners 5,000 yen ($41). JAS expected to shell out 1,281 first and 36,000 second prizes during the promotion.
The 777s served JAS into the new century however the fallout from September 11 and the challenging economic conditions even prior to this led to a takeover from Japan Airlines. Keen to add JAS' 25% domestic marketshare to its own 25% and compete more effectively with ANA a deal was announced in November 2001 whereby the two airlines would merge. A new holding company was created in October 2002, Japan Airlines System, with a new "Arc of the Sun" livery adopted for the entire JAL group in September. Gradually JAS aircraft began to acquire the new JAL logo on their rear fuselage with gradual repaints into the full new JAL scheme beginning.
On April 1, 2004 JAS formerly changed its name to Japan Airlines Domestic and the JAS brand including the lovely rainbow 777s was discontinued. All 7 of the JAS 777-289s continue in operation with JAL but their days must be numbered as 6 of JAL's own 777s (3 246s and 3 346s) have already left the fleet for scrapping.
2001. Japan Airlines and Japan Air System take merger move. NY Times
Japan Air System. RZJets.net
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: