New Alaska Airlines Timbers Jet design the result of combined vision

Winners Bode & Wright explain the livery

Timber Joey, Merritt Paulson, winners, Alaska Airlines Plane

Photo Credit: 
Photo by Miranda Chrislock

Alaska Airlines unveiled its new Timbers Jet at Portland International Airport this morning. At 10:30 a.m., the Portland Timbers-branded plane, an Alaska Airlines 737-700, taxied to Gate C1 where it was met by airline staff and a chanting crowd of about two dozen fans.

“Paul Wright and John Bode’s winning designs came together seamlessly to create one of the most unique paint themes in our fleet,” said Joe Sprague, Alaska Airlines’ vice president of marketing. “The plane’s iconic green and yellow colors will be hard to miss from the ground or in the air.”

“This is easily the best-looking plane you will find anywhere,” Portland Timbers President Merritt Paulson said.

The plane’s livery is the result of a competition that was open to all in February of this year. From over 500 entries, judges from Alaska Airlines and the Timbers front office chose two designs and merged them.

They took the front half of John Bode’s yellow-to-green sunburst design and matched it with the rear half of Paul Wright’s close-up of the Timbers axe logo.

“I’m amazed, that plane will be hard to miss,” said Bode. “I’m glad they kept the sun on there because I wanted the [Timbers Army] to be honored with the plane. Fantastic.”

The two-dimensional designs were adapted to fit on the three-dimensional tube shape of an airplane. The Alaska name was added, and the emergency exits were picked out in contrasting colors, as required by law. 

Bode is a technician working in plastics processing for Tyco and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Photoshop is just a hobby. The 46-year-old grew up watching the San Jose Earthquakes play in the NASL but has also followed Timbers news since he heard they were moving to MLS.

“I saw the link on an aviation web site and thought ‘That’s right up my alley,’” he said Friday.

Bode went on www.portlandtimbers.com looking for ideas and realized the fans were an important part of the club. He took the Timbers Army sunburst from the jock tag on the front of the Timbers jersey and blew it up. He correctly figured that bold imagery works better than fine detail on this scale. His work took him eight hours.

An aviation nut—he does flight simulation, and he flew a lot as a child because his dad worked for TWA—Bode can see the runway and flight patterns of SFO from his home office in San Mateo.

“I’m I am looking forward to seeing my paintjob go by my window,” he said.

The name Portland Timbers was elevated above the cheat line. “It goes back to the 60s when a lot of airlines had a paint line as their graphics along the line of the window, above or below,” explained Bode. “They call it the cheat line.” Both artists were given a detailed tour of the plane with the pilots.

 Photo: Miranda Chrislocke

The other winning artist, Paul Wright, is a professional graphic designer based in Woodburn, Oregon. His family has become soccer fans as his seven-year-old daughter Lily took up the sport a year ago.

“It’s beautiful, it’s really exciting and it really jumps out of the sky,” said Wright. “It’s such a striking image.” He appreciated the range of greens and yellows in the design, noting that they come straight from the jersey.

Wright, 41, spent just three hours in front of the screen at his company WrightSideUp Design (Wrightsideupdesign.com). He grabbed a 2D version of the logo and turned it into a vector file so he could resize it.

The Wright family now has the soccer bug.

“After we went to the opening game [versus Chicago],my family were yelling at me for not jumping on season tickets when I had the chance,” he said.

Wright sees the plane as more than just flying team colors. It’s also a calling card for his business. It usually comes up in conversation if he’s wearing his Timbers scarf.

“It’s kind of impressive to go to a meeting and whip out a picture of a 737 and say ‘This is what I’ve done!’ I’d pull out a Sharpie and autograph it, but they might put me on a no-fly list.”

Alaska Airlines, the Timbers’ shirt sponsor, is known for its eye-catching motifs. The carrier has now 10 painted planes, including one that looks like a giant salmon as well as ones depicting Tinkerbell, Mickey Mouse and the Genie from the Aladdin movie

The Timbers plane is not reserved for team use. One of 122 similar model Alaska jets, it will move around the country as required. “But this particular aircraft will operate in and out of Portland as much as possible,” said captain Jim McNellis, who piloted the plane Friday.

“This is great for the city of Portland and for the soccer team,” said McNellis.

At noon the freshly painted plane took off for Las Vegas. The destination was chosen as symbolic of a win. The Timbers entertain the Philadelphia Union at JELD-WEN Field tonight at 7:30 pm (Fox Soccer, 95.5 The Game, La Pantera 940 (ESP), MLS MatchDay Free Online).

Fun Facts about Painting the Timbers Plane

  • It took 16 days with a crew of 18 working around the clock.
  • 4,500 sheets of DA sandpaper.
  • Nearly 300 rolls of masking tape.
  • Nearly 130 gallons of paint material.
  • Specialized Electrostatic Paint Equipment (which electrically charges paint).
  • Every square inch of the aircraft exterior is touched by a paint technician during the job.
  • Six basic colors and six additional custom mixed colors were used for the fade.
  • Fade work took 4 days.
  • Over 200 chili cups and over 400 dixie cups were used for mixing paint.