This is the first half of a report about my recent trip to Osaka related to the rollout and inaugural flight of ANA’s third Star Wars aircraft – the BB-8 Jet. The first part covers the background of the trip as well as the rollout and subsequent night shooting of the aircraft. To read about the inaugural flight, click here.
The ANA Star Wars Project
While All Nippon Airways is famous worldwide for its cooperation with Pokemon and for painting aircraft in Pokemon-themed liveries, in April 2015, All Nippon Airways annouced that it would paint one of its Boeing 787-9 in an R2D2 livery based on the popular Star Wars character. This was part of a 5 year partnership contract signed between the airline and the Walt Disney Company – the new owner of the Star Wars franchise.
Later on that year, in August, it was announced that further two planes would be painted into a Star Wars livery – a Boeing 777-300ER featuring the new Star Wars character BB-8 and a Boeing 767-300 featuring R2D2 on one side and BB-8 on the other.
The first aircraft – “R2D2 ANA Jet” – premiered on October 17, 2015 with a sightseeing flight for selected few winners of a lucky draw.
The second one – “Star Wars ANA Jet” featuring both R2D2 and BB-8 – operated its first flight with passengers onboard on November 22, 2015 from Tokyo Haneda to Osaka Itami.
The final, third aircraft – “BB-8 ANA Jet” – was set to fly its first revenue service on March 28, 2016 from Osaka Itami to Tokyo Haneda.
Booking the Inaugural: A Bit Too Late to the Party
Since I am not a big Star Wars fan, I was a bit hesitant to join the flight in the beginning. However, having missed the inaugural R2D2 Jet flight and seeing the great photos and reports afterwards made me want to participate in the BB-8 Jet inaugural.
By the time I decided to go ahead and book the flight, it was already full. Luckily, ANA allows passengers to register on a wait list, and so I went ahead and put myself on the waitlist for both the “Tokuwari” discounted economy fare and “Stockholders” fare which would require me to obtain stockholder vouchers later on.
After about a week of waiting, I had a missed call and a voicemail – “This is ANA. We would like to inform you that a seat on NH22 on March 28 is open now…” A seat in the “Tokuwari” fare became available and so I proceeded to book it.
At the time of booking, no more window or aisle seats were available, but that was not important as I was at least able to get a seat. Later on, I was at least able to switch from a middle seat to an aisle seat.
Introducing BB-8 Jet: The Official Rollout
The trip began for me on March 27 – one day before the flight. While undecided until the last minute, in the end, I decided to take ANA’s NH13 flight from Tokyo Haneda to Osaka Itami. The flight was uneventful, and the only thing worth mentioning is that it was operated by JA8197 – at 20 and a half years old, the oldest Boeing 777-200 in ANA’s fleet.
I arrived in Osaka Itami at about 8:20AM and walked straight to the MRO Japan (ex-ANA Maintenance) area where the BB-8 Jet rollout would be happening.
While the aircraft was towed out of the hangar for the first time the day before, March 27 was the official rollout day, and as such, a large number of enthusiasts gathered around the fence to watch the rollout.
The official rollout was part of an event for 50 guests that were chosen by lucky draw. While the official start of the event was 11AM, the guests started arriving on the apron shortly after noon.
Then, finally, about 10 minutes after noon, the moderator announced that the BB-8 Jet would be rolled out.
Right afterwards, the hangar doors started opening, and the aircraft was towed out accompanied by the sound of Star Wars theme music (video including the music follows after photos).
Full video of the roll-out including the Star Wars theme music.
With the aircraft out on the apron, the visitors were handed out bright orange coats symbolizing BB-8. Then they were moved to the right side of the aircraft for a group photo. This luckily allowed us – photographers – to get a clear photo of the aircraft in front of the hangar.
After the initial event was finished, ANA held another event aimed at its employees and their families.
Once we finished photographing the roll-out, I headed for lunch and then visited friend’s home for a couple of hours before heading out again to take night pictures of the BB-8 Jet.
The Dark Side: BB-8 Jet Night Shooting
While it was raining a bit, we left friend’s home around half past six and went back to the MRO Japan area this time in the hope of capturing the aircraft at night.
By the time we got there, the area was already crowded with other like-minded people hoping to get a decent shot of the aircraft in front of the hangar.
While the rumor had it that the aircraft would stay parked in front of the hangar overnight, around 8PM a towing car came. As such, we changed location to one of the many parks around Itami airport from where spot 53 – where the aircraft would be towed – is nicely visible.
After taking (more than) enough pictures of the BB-8 Jet parked in front of the Itami tower, we headed for a dinner at a steak restaurant before each going our separate way – in my case to Toyoko Inn Itami hotel right next to the restaurant.