Bluest Sky Thinking!

December 10, 2020

Azul Airlines, the Brazilian carrier, likes to make a statement. And when Azul and AkzoNobel come together, you know the result is likely to be a color spectacular.

It was a chance conversation between two senior executives of the respective companies at an event that set in motion the journey towards one of the most amazing projects ever undertaken. And it embraced the skills of a third crucial party in our story, Embraer.

Unusually, the conversation was started not by the AkzoNobel Aerospace Coatings team, but actually their colleagues within Decorative Paints. Could Azul imagine one of their Embraer airplanes painted in a dazzling array of colors more usually seen in the home? And given that every airplane in the Azul fleet has its own name and story, what inspirational idea could they come up with to bring such a story to life?

Of course, the Coral-branded decorative paints could not be used on an aircraft, but the gauntlet had been well and truly thrown down. Would their Aerospace colleagues pick it up? They most certainly would!

AkzoNobel’s wider marketing and communications team were immediately on the case, with the best brains from both the Aerospace Coatings and Decorative Paints teams set to work. Among a range of ideas suggested they settled on one: the Spix’s Macaw.

Fernanda Figueiredo, South America Head of Marketing for AkzoNobel Decorative Paints takes up the story: “The Spix’s Macaw (also known as the little Blue Macaw) is a very famous and beautiful blue bird in Brazil but is extinct in the wild. A captive breeding program is underway to reintroduce the bird into our country and when we told Azul about the story they loved it. ‘Azul’ means ‘Blue’ in Portuguese, and so it was the perfect fit.”

Rather than coming up with their own designs, however, the team decided to create a competition, and invited three artists to submit a design that not only included the bird, but also reflected the values and history of both companies.

In choosing the winner, Fernanda and her colleagues created something of a fun headache for themselves: the winning design – from a well-known local street artist called Pardal – needed a total of 58 different colors to bring it to life.

Marcelo Fassina, Sales Manager in Central and South Americas for Aerospace, met the challenge head on: “We have our own laboratory at the Embraer manufacturing site in Sao José dos Campos and we showed them the designs. I knew they would be able to translate the drawings into finished artwork, but they exceeded even my expectations.

“Out of the 58 colors needed, we had 30 already in our color palette but had to develop 28 entirely new colors which our team created, mixed and produced in less than two weeks. It was a remarkable achievement.”

The airplane was painted by the expert team at Embraer in close consultation with AkzoNobel’s own technicians, making maximum use of AkzoNobel’s Aerodur 3001/3002 basecoat clearcoat system.

The results are little short of stunning: several of the birds are depicted along the fuselage against a background of yellows, greens and purples to reflect their habitat and environment. The tail feathers of the central bird effortlessly transform into a flourish of colors that reference the Coral and Dulux logo. And for the sharp eyed there is another visual treat: a small brown bird – the ‘signature’ of the artist whose name, Pardal, coincidentally translates as sparrow!

The completed airplane – ‘Ararinha Azul’ or ‘Blue Macaw’ – is breathtaking, and an example of AkzoNobel’s passion for paint in its own right. The story, however, doesn’t stop there, for the Decorative Paints team was also determined to be involved.

Blue Macaws are more typically found in the North East of the country, and several new pairs are due to be released in late 2021 near the small city of Curaça, a very dry and almost desert-like area of the country that the birds typically preferred. A German NGO in partnership with Chico Mendes Brazilian Institute is driving the program.

Fernanda and her team therefore contacted the City Mayor and told him about the ‘Bluest Sky’ project and its link to conservation:

“We told him about the tribute to the bird and could we do something for the city to celebrate. They were very excited about it and so we had a competition so all of the local schools could take part. They had to create a design to show how they would welcome the birds back into their lives.”

AkzoNobel also went a step further, painting both the local church and the city theatre blue to celebrate the birds’ return. More than 2,400 liters of its Coral paints was used on the theatre, and a further 620 liters on the church from its Weathershield, Ambience and Easycare ranges to give both building a fresh and invigorating look, inside and out.

It has been a project that the business can rightfully celebrate, and a model of the Embraer 195 E2 airplane now sits in reception at AkzoNobel’s new headquarters in Sao Paulo, a welcome reminder of team collaboration at its best: “Yes we wanted to create a fun and exciting design, but we also wanted to say more about our business.

“We wanted to show the strength of AkzoNobel and our technical expertise, and how the paints you use in your homes are developed by the same people whose coatings are used to color and protect these amazing airplanes. And we wanted to reinforce our position on sustainability and the environment, and that we care for the world.”

They did all of this and more, judging by the response from the team at Azul Airlines. Daniel Bicudo, Azul’s Marketing Director, expressed his delight for the team and the program: “It has been very exciting,” he said.

“It is the most colorful airplane painted in South America and because of that we are incredibly proud to show off the beauty of our country and its flora and fauna. We thank AkzoNobel and Embraer for this sensational project and building ‘Ararinha Azul’ together. We are sure that this airplane will be the most popular and widely photographed airplane in Brazilian domestic aviation.”

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