It was seen and not seen. It only lasted a few weeks and was the only time it happened. It happened in 2003, when it was 30 years since the death of the painter and sculptor Pablo Ruiz Picasso, a death that today marks half a century. At the beginning of the 21st century, the Iberia company was in the process of changing its fleet. The veteran intercontinental Boeing 747s needed to be replaced and the airline opted for Airbus aircraft to replace them.
Other veterans, the Mc Donnell Douglas DC-10, were replaced by the A340-300 in 1996, a model that debuted with a special flight to transport the Spanish team to the Atlanta Olympics. The services operated in Jumbo, the aircraft with the largest capacity at the time, were progressively replaced by the longest Airbus model: the A340-600, which at 75 meters was 11 more than the -300 series, aircraft that Iberia named, for the first time. time in its history, with the names of Spanish women such as Concha Espina, Rosalía de Castro or Emilia Pardo Bazán. For the aircraft with the largest capacity, the company’s management opted for male names from the world of the arts. The first was the architect Gaudí, a surname carried by the EC-INO registered aircraft, released at the end of 2003. Salvador Dalí’s name was also painted in advance on another Airbus, the one registered in Spain as EC-IQR and delivered as third unit in the first weeks of 2004.
Between the Gaudí and the Dalí, there was an intermediate A340-600, the one registered as EC-IOB, which was released almost at Christmas 2003. Following the policy of remembering famous Spanish characters, on the delivery flight from the Airbus factory to Madrid, the plane already had his name painted under the cockpit windows: Pablo Ruiz Picasso. A few days after his arrival in Barajas, he began his commercial services by flying to the different destinations of the company in America. It also did it to Tenerife and Gran Canaria in order to have more cargo capacity to the islands.
The Picasso flew little with that name, since once it was known by his heirs that in airports such as the JFK in New York, the Ezeiza in Buenos Aires, or the international one in Mexico City, Pablo Ruiz Picasso was frequently seen painted on a four-engine, from some offices in Paris a request was sent to the Spanish airline in Madrid. In a letter, he was informed that the copyright on Picasso’s works, as well as the exploitation of his name, image or voice, correspond exclusively to the Succession Picasso, a legal form that represents the heirs of the artist born in Malaga in 1881. Iberia, which only named the plane and did not use or reproduce any of its works or drawings, was informed that it could even use its own name.
The same management that decided to pay homage to the painter and that did not receive any benefit for it was surprised by the situation, something that had not happened since the company was founded in 1927 and that has not happened again in the last 20 years. The solution was quick: taking advantage of maintenance work, the name was deleted and that Airbus continued to fly as an anonymous aircraft. Months later, in the summer of 2003, he once again sported a stage name: Julio Romero de Torres, an artist born in Córdoba seven years before Pablo Ruiz Picasso. The symbolist painter died at the age of 55, also in Córdoba and the plane in his name continued to fly until March 2020, when Covid-19 left it parked for a few months, along with most of the Iberia fleet. Already faded, the ex-Picasso and ex-Julio Romero de Torres passed into the hands of the Maltese Air X charter in the first weeks of 2021 and ended its operational life as a freighter traveling around the planet for Air Atlanta Icelandic, a company based in Iceland . Since August of last year, the old Picasso has been parked at the Johannesburg airport, waiting to be bought by another company or to be scrapped.