How the final 3 TWA liveries evolved from one to the next

By Norebbo •  7 min read

As a child of the 80’s, my memories of TWA only goes back as far as the Dual Stripe livery launched in 1975. It’s the TWA livery I grew up with, and the only one I think about whenever I see (or hear) a reference to this once great airline.

All the Trans World Airlines liveries (especially the final three) are a perfect example of less being more. Although relatively simple, they pushed the limits of what airline livery trends were at the time – without complex color palettes and gaudy logos.

A detailed look at the evolution of the last 3 TWA liveries

An entire book could be written about every Trans World Airlines livery that ever existed (there are many). I might get around to doing that someday, but for now, I’m just going to show you the details of the final 3. They are more intricate than they appear at first glance.

1959-1975: Arrowhead Livery

The Arrowhead livery was the color scheme that TWA launched their L-1011’s with back in 1972, and if you ask me, it was a brilliant interpretation of the “cheatline” livery that most airlines were adopting at the time. Stripes were all the rage back then (you can have a look at the history of the Air New Zealand livery to see what I mean).

TWA Arrowhead livery Boeing 707

The TWA Arrowhead livery (as seen here on my Boeing 707 template) has stood up well to the test of time IMHO. It’s still as sexy today as I’m sure it was back then!

Unlike how most of the other airlines were doing it (the Continental Airlines livery is a good example), the stripes in this livery mimicked an arrowhead – complete with a pointy nose and a split-tail / feathered end. It was a beautiful (and bold) change of pace from static horizontal stripes IMHO.

Other than the stripes, the Arrowhead livery stayed true to the TWA design language. The fuselage remained white, the belly of the aircraft remained exposed aluminum, and all the design elements (titles, stripes, etc) were TWA red.

1962 update: Dual Globes

In 1962, there was an update to the Arrowhead livery that replaced the block letter “TWA” logo on the vertical stabilizer with a stylized dual globe graphic instead. Not only was it a better representation of TWA’s global brand, it was the first time the color gold was used in a Trans World Airlines livery.

TWA Globe logo livery lockheed L-1011

The TWA Globe logo was too intricate to be used as the main titles on the forward section of the fuselage IMHO. Seen here on my Lockheed L-1011 template, it’s kind of hard to see without wrinkling your nose a bit (much like you do when scooping poo out of your cat’s litter box).

1975-1995: Dual Stripes Livery

Nothing screams “1980’s” more than thick red stripes running down the side of a white fuselage. The livery that TWA unveiled in 1975 totally reminds me of the A-Team van (with different colors obviously), and I swear I could hear Wham and Madonna playing in the background as I was creating the following illustration. It was a product of it’s time, and I loved it.

TWA dual stripes livery hollow titles Boeing 727-200

Fun fact: the first version of the Dual Stripes livery featured hollowed out “TRANS WORLD” titles. Again, it required a bit of nose wrinkling to read at longer distances, and I’m surprised that it lasted as long as it did (just 4 years).

TWA dual stripes livery solid titles Boeing 727-200

They came to their senses in 1979 and made those titles solid red instead. Much better.

The design of the Dual Stripes livery was essentially a “freshened up” version of the Arrowhead livery. The stripes remained pointed, the colors remained the same, and the typeface used for “TWA” was nearly identical.

TWA 767-200 dual stripes livery

The 767’s (and some TWA Express Aircraft) featured dual red pinstripes (with “TWA” spelled out) on the engines. And am I just imagining things, or is it not hard to imagine this livery being “inspired” by the cocaine boom going on at the time? Just sayin’.

The major differences from the previous livery:

TWA Lockheed L-1011 dual stripes livery

I also find it interesting how the large red block on the vertical stabilizer was different from one aircraft type to the next – and it’s for this reason alone that I think the Dual Stripes livery looked better on some aircraft than others. Of course, in order to prevent you from completely hating my guts, I’m not telling you which one l disliked the most…

It’s also worth noting that angled pinstripes / cheatlines weren’t unique to TWA at the time. The Northwest Airlines livery that came a few years later had an angled (though curved) stripe as well.

1995-2001 (RIP): Globe Livery

TWA introduced an all new livery in September 1995 that never made it to all their aircraft before the brand was absorbed into American Airlines in April 2001. And that’s a shame, because it was a beautiful brand refresh.

1995 TWA livery Boeing 757-200

The 1995 Globe livery (as seen here on my Boeing 757-200 template) is both beautiful and awkward. I quite like it overall, but the way the stripes get pinched in the corner (behind the rear boarding door) is something that has bugged me since the very first time I saw it.

TWA Lockheed L-1011 1995 livery

On some aircraft (such as the L-1011), the stripes look like they are pinched around the horizontal stabilizer. It looks kind of cool (and purposeful) actually. I wish I would have seen this one first!

Speaking of the old Lockheed’s, only one L-1011 ever wore these new colors. That honor went to aircraft N31029, and it’s a shame that they didn’t have enough time to convert others in the fleet before the last of this type was retired for good in 1997.

The 1995 Globe livery was a huge departure from previous liveries:


My name is Scott, and I started in the design industry over 20 years ago with a bachelors degree in Industrial Design from the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, MI. I have an extensive background in both 2D and 3D illustration, and these days, I spend a majority of my time creating aircraft templates and airliner art. I’m basically an airplane dork.

Keep Reading