MIAMI — In a special operation that began on May 1, 2016, LATAM Airlines (LA) successfully transported the Olympic Torch from Geneva to Brasilia, thus starting the 95-day countdown to the start of the XXXI Olympic Games to be celebrated in Rio de Janeiro from August 5 through August 21 of that same year.

Today, as we are about to start the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, we take a look at the logistics of carrying the Olympic torch aboard a commercial aircraft.

LATAM selected a Boeing 767-300ER (PT-MSY / MSN 42214 / LN 1043) to be the first aircraft to wear the new livery of the consolidated carrier. To highlight the event, special Olympic Dream Onboard titles were applied on the fuselage, together with a special logo placed at the front.

latam-767-300-rio-de-janeiro-2
The aircraft sporting the new LATAM colors, together with special Olympic titles. (Credits: Daniel Carneiro)

The Flight


The flight to Geneva identified as JJ9750 departed early in the night from Rio de Janeiro/Galeão, arriving in Geneva the next day in the morning. There, the Brazilian Olympic Committee led by Carlos Nuzman took delivery of the flame, which was lit in four closed lamps fueled by kerosene. Each lamp was accompanied by a member of the Organizing Committee.

A special support structure was developed to secure the lamp on the aircraft’s seat. The structure was devised so that the lamp was fixed in it, impeding its movement during flight and minimizing the risk of a fire on board.

The special lamp, secured on a standard passenger seat on its way to Brasilia. (Credits: LATAM)
The special lamp, secured on a standard passenger seat on its way to Brasilia. (Credits: LATAM)

The return flight identified as JJ9751 left Geneva on the night of May 2, and arrived in Brasilia, the capital city of Brazil, on the morning of May 3. While entering Brazilian airspace, the aircraft was escorted by two Brazilian Air Force (FAB) F-5 fighter jets.

One of the two FAB F-5 fighter jets escorting the aircraft on its way to Brasilia. (Credits: LATAM)
One of the two FAB F-5 fighter jets escorting the aircraft on its way to Brasilia. (Credits: LATAM)

The Arrival


At their arrival in Brasilia, the lamps were offloaded and transported to Planalto Presidential Palace, where President Dilma Rousseff received them, igniting the torch as it begins its journey around the country.

Carlos Nuzman, Head of the Rio de Janeiro Organizing Committee, disembarks the aircraft with the Brazilian flag and one of the lamps with the Olympic flame. (Credits: LATAM)
Carlos Nuzman, head of the Rio de Janeiro Organizing Committee, disembarks the aircraft with the Brazilian flag and one of the lamps with the Olympic flame. (Credits: LATAM)

The Rio 2016 Olympic Torch Relay traveled through 300 cities across Brazil. During this tour, LATAM carred the torch to 13 cities on an Airbus A319 aircraft, also featuring the logo of the Olympic Torch Relay: Teresina, Palmas, São Luís, Imperatriz, Belém, Macapá, Santarém, Boa Vista, Manaus, Rio Branco, Porto Velho, Cuiabá and Campo Grande.

In total, some 12,000 people carried the flame on its journey to the Maracana Stadium for the Opening Ceremony.

For the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, a special Boeing 787- Dreamliner JA837J was brought into service with the cooperation of JAL and ANA.

The type carried out a special mission to carry the Olympic torch from Athens to Matsushima Air Base in Japan in March 2020. The special livery lasted just one week and then got repainted to the regular JAL livery.


Featured image: LATAM