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Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth names Virgin Atlantic's new Airbus A340-600 "Queen of the Skies"

Travel News Asia 13 April 2004

Her Majesty The Queen of England recently named Virgin Atlantic Airway's latest Airbus A340-600 "Queen of the Skies" at a ceremony at the Airbus factory in Toulouse. The event was part of a state visit to France to celebrate the centenary of the Entente Cordiale. The original Entente Cordiale agreement was signed on 8 April 1904.

In the spirit of Entente Cordiale Virgin's famous Flying Lady illustration on the aircraft fuselage features the Union Jack and the French flag and the inscription below her is in English on the port side and is French on the starboard. "Queen of the Skies" is also translated into "Reine des cieux" on the starboard side.

Welcoming this honour Sir Richard Branson, Chairman of Virgin Atlantic, said:

"It's an incredible honour to have one of our aircraft named by Her Majesty The Queen. It's also a tremendous tribute to the hard work and professionalism of everyone at Virgin Atlantic who help us fly the flag for Britain all round the world. We took delivery of our very first Airbus A340 just over ten years ago when we had only nine aircraft in our fleet. "Queen of the Skies" will bring our total to well over three times that number.

"It's also a source of great pride to be part of the celebrations of Entente Cordiale. This agreement symbolises the harmony and cooperation between Britain and France but has also given its name to the noble desire for nations to trade and work together in happy coexistence. It's an example that is as powerful and relevant today as it was 100 years ago."

Virgin Atlantic's  fleet now comprises of 29 aircraft, thirteen Boeing 747-400s, nine Airbus A340-300s and seven A340-600s. The current average age of the fleet is 5 years and two months.

The new A340-600 entered service with launch customer Virgin Atlantic in July 2002. The inaugural flight took place at the Farnborough Air Show where the aircraft was visited by His Royal Highness Prince Andrew. The -600 series retains the same fuselage cross section as the -300, but is some 11.6m longer, at 75.3m making it the longest civil aircraft in the world. The A340-600 is designed to fly up to 7250 nm with a full payload of passengers and is configured with 311 seats in the Virgin Atlantic three class layout. The aircraft is powered by four Rolls Royce Trent 500 engines each delivering 56,000lb of thrust. The engines are built by Rolls Royce in Derby and the wings manufactured by Airbus-UK, Broughton. Other parts and final assembly takes place at Toulouse.

All Virgin Atlantic aircraft carry the famous "flying lady" in homage to aviation's golden era. The image is based on one of illustrator Alberto Vargas' well known "Varga Girls", who decorated the sides of many aircraft in the 40's and 50's. Virgin Atlantic's flying lady proudly flies the Union Jack - illustrated to appear as the lining of her cape.

Following the maritime tradition aircraft are viewed as being female and each Virgin Atlantic aircraft carries its own name as well as its unique registration. Virgin Atlantic has traditionally named its aircraft around a small number of themes - the colour red, the destinations Virgin serves, Virgin's popular music heritage and the celebration of flight. Examples include;

- African Queen
- Ruby Tuesday
- Cosmic Girl
- Indian Princess
- Atlantic Angel

To celebrate Entente Cordiale Virgin Atlantic has changed the Union Jack in the flying lady illustration for the first time by producing a combined image of the British and French flags. Below the flying lady the inscription on the port side reads:

Named by Her Majesty The Queen on 7 April 2004
in celebration of the centenary of the Entente Cordiale

And on the starboard side it reads:

Inaugur par Sa Majest la Reine le 7 Avril 2004 
pour clbrer le centenaire de l'Entente Cordiale

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