Brazil's Azul Airlines Celebrates Ayrton Senna With Special Livery

Brazilian low-cost airline Azul has dedicated an Embraer E-190 to legendary Formula One driver Ayrton Senna, who passed away after a tragic wreck during the San Marino Grand Prix twenty years ago on May 1, 1994. The nose of the plane depicts Senna's trademark helmet paint scheme.


Senna's helmet design. Photo by Ilya Bolkov on Flickr [Creative Commons commercial license]

During his career, Senna won three F1 World Championships. He drove for Toleman, Lotus, McLaren and Williams-Renault. Another driver, Roland Ratzenberger, was killed the day before Senna during qualifying. According to Wikipedia, Senna immediately went to the scene of Ratzenberger's crash. He later commandeered an official's car in order to drive to the medical center. He was reprimanded by officials but not punished. FIA medical professor Sid Watkins suggested Senna retire from racing, but he said he couldn't.

On the morning of the race, Senna discussed the reestablishment of the Grand Prix Drivers Association, expressing a desire to improve safety in racing. On lap 7 of the Grand Prix, Senna led the race over Micheal Schumacher as he entered the Tamburello corner. Senna's car left the track at an estimated 191 miles per hour, and hit the retaining wall at 145MPH. After Sid Watkins performed a tracheotomy on Senna on the track, he was airlifted to the hospital, where he was placed on life support, but later died.

Senna, photographed by Stuart Seeger at the 1991 F1 Grand Prix in Phoenix, AZ. [from Flickr with Creative Commons commercial license]


Varig Airlines flew Senna's coffin back to Brazil, against its normal policy of not transporting human remains. The flight was escorted by fighter jets as it landed in Sao Paolo. Brazil declared three national days of mourning, during which an estimated three million people paid their respects in the streets of Sao Paolo.

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