The logo of Britain's three successive international airlines: Imperial Airways, BOAC, and British Airways. It looks like this:

  `--.__              \________
        `--.____           __,-'
             _,-'     __,-'
         _,-'    __,-'  
     _,-'  ___,-'
Starting in World War II, British radio operators gave BOAC aircraft the callsign "Speedbird," and the tradition stuck. Today, BA's aircraft are still referred to by air traffic control as "Speedbird X," where X is the flight number of the aircraft. For most other airlines, aircraft are referred to by the name of the airline: "American 191," "Trans World 800," etc: BA is one of the only exceptions to this rule. (Another was Pan Am, whose planes were always called "Clipper.")

The speedbird appeared on British Airways' livery until 1985, when they adopted their blue crown color scheme that featured an elongated red stripe vaguely remniscient of the speedbird. When BA introduced its new "ethnic" liveries in 1997, the stripe changed to a red and blue ribbon that looked nothing like the speedbird.

Now the speedbird only lives as a word that British pilots get to hear after coming home from a long transatlantic flight. It is also sometimes used as a nickname for the British Airways Concorde.

A speedbird-shaped woman carrying a Union Jack is the new logo for Virgin Atlantic.

To see the evolution of the speedbird in pictures, check out:

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