How do you fancy flying in an aircraft called Minyma Kutjara Tjukurpa? In case your Pitjanjatjara isn’t up to it, this name tells the Jukurpa story of two sisters who are travelling home. The younger sister has been lost for a long time in the south, and her big sister leads her north across vast distances. Comforting her younger sister, the older sister teaches her about the Country they travel through. They stop on the way to perform Inma/ceremony.

Well your chance will come next year when Qantas’s first Airbus A220 aircraft featuring a new Aboriginal-inspired livery will join regional subsidiary QantasLink flying domestically between a destination like Canberra and Hobart and major State capitals.

The plane has so far only been seen in the Airbus facility in Mirabel, Canada (of all unlikely places) ahead of its arrival in Australia before the end of the year. And the great Maringka Baker from the Tjungu Palya art centre at Kanpi in the APY Lands is the artist behind the Aboriginal livery.

Amazingly, it took only two weeks in the paint shop in Mirabel to complete Qantas’s “most complex design” yet – comprising more than 20,000 dots, and requiring 100 painters to be involved in the process.

It’s the sixth aircraft in the airline’s Flying Art series. The others are the Dreamliner Emily Kame Kngwarreye in 2018 based very loosely on the artist‘s ‘Yam Dreaming’ from1991. Before that was Mendoowoorrji by Paddy Bedford. Mendoowoorrji is an interpretation of Bedford’s 2005 painting Medicine Pocket, which captures the essence of Bedford’s mother’s country called Mendoowoorrji.

Rene Kulitja was the artist behind Yananyi Dreaming – ‘Yananyi’ meaning going or travelling. In Yananyi Dreaming, radiating pathways lead to the symbol of Uluru where she lives, depicted both as a physical form surrounded by kurkara (desert oak trees) and as an abstract representation of concentric circles.

Before that the company behind the project, Balarinji, created the first two designs, Nalanji Dreaming and Wunala Dreaming. ‘Nalanji’ is a Yanyuwa word meaning ‘our place’, celebrating the balance and harmony of nature in Australia. This plane flew between 1995 and 2005. Wunala Dreaming derives from John Moriarty’s Yanyuwa language story from the Gulf of Carpentaria: “In Dreamtime journeys, spirit ancestors in the form of kangaroos (Wunala) make tracks from camps to waterholes, leading the people to water and food”. It flew from 1994 to 2011.

Commenting on the new plane, Qantas CEO Vanessa Hudson said: “These aircraft have the potential to change the way our customers travel across the country, with the ability to connect any two cities or towns in Australia. A whole new fleet type also means a lot of opportunities for our people to operate and look after these aircraft”.

Apparently she had nothing to say about Maringka Baker’s contribution!

But, Maringka was involved in the inaugural preview flight of ‘her’ plane from Sydney to Uluru on Thursday 22nd February. She was there to meet it. Commercial flights started on 1st March.