Farewell, Bear Do Hokkaido Jet! (& All About Air Do’s Bear Do Jets)

Whether it is Pokemon or Mickey Mouse-themed aircraft, Japan is well-known for colorful special liveries. Perhaps the lesser-known of those were the Bear Do aircraft operated by Air Do. While none of the Bear Do aircraft is in operation anymore (Air Do now operates the Rokon Jet), there were three generations of the livery between 2009 and early December 2021.

Having had the chance to be on both what was supposed to be the first flight as well as on the very last flight of the latest one – Bear Do Hokkaido Jet – I will share my experiences below. First, however, let’s take a brief look at all three generations of the livery.

This article is dedicated to a friend who joined us on the last flight but tragically passed away a couple of weeks later. Rest in peace, Yusuke.

Bear Do Hokkaido Jet
Bear Do Hokkaido Jet.

Three Generations of Bear Do Hokkaido Jets

The first generation Bear Do Jet livery was worn by a Boeing 737-500 registered JA8196. The aircraft was equipped with 126 seats and was originally delivered to Air Nippon in 1996 before being transferred to ANA in 2003. It flew with ANA until 2009 when it was transferred to Air Do.

Air Do decided to introduce the special livery to celebrate the tenth anniversary of its operations. It featured several of Air Do’s Bear Do mascots on both sides. After the aircraft was repainted in Osaka, the Bear Do Hokkaido Jet operated its first revenue flight on April 6, 2009. Its last flight was HD24 from Sapporo to Tokyo Haneda on March 14, 2014.

In addition to the aircraft being painted in a special livery, passengers lucky enough to fly on it could also enjoy Bear Do-themed headrests and cups.

Bear Do Jet
The original Bear Do Jet.

The second generation of the special livery, Bear Do Dream Jet, was worn by another ex-Air Nippon Boeing 737-500 with 126 seats. The aircraft, originally delivered to Air Nippon in 1998 was transferred to Air Do in March 2011. This time, the livery featured the Bear Do mascots doing a variety of activities including painting, reading, and eating.

Unlike the previous livery which didn’t feature a special tail and was black and white, the second generation Bear Do Jet was more colorful and had a bear on its tail too.

The second Bear Do Jet operated its first flight on March 24, 2011, and until its return to ANA at the end of 2014, it carried over 630,000 passengers. The special livery operated its last flight on November 30, 2014, taking passengers from Sapporo to Tokyo Haneda as flight HD28.

For most of its life, the Bear Do Dream Jet operated alongside the original Bear Do Jet.

Bear Do Dream Jet
Bear Do Dream Jet.

For the third and so far last generation of the special livery, Air Do decided to go with a widebody aircraft. The Bear Do Hokkaido Jet livery was worn by a Boeing 767-300 registered JA602A. As its registration suggests, the aircraft was transferred to Air Do from ANA which originally received it in 1998.

The Bear Do Hokkaido Jet had a slightly dramatic entry into service. Its inaugural flight was supposed to be HD15 from Tokyo to Sapporo departing at 8:15AM on July 29, 2016. Due to technical issues, however, it ended up being the same day’s flight HD29 with a scheduled departure time of 3:50PM out of Tokyo. Repeated technical issues delayed that flight as well, though, causing the aircraft to only finally depart after 5PM.

After doing over 12,000 flight hours with Air Do, the Bear Do Hokkaido Jet was retired on December 9, 2021. On its last day of operation, it flew six flights. It started the day with a roundtrip flight from Tokyo to Sapporo, followed by a roundtrip to Asahikawa, and ending with another roundtrip to Sapporo. The very last flight was HD32 leaving Sapporo at 6PM.

Bear Do Hokkaido Jet
The third and so far last Bear Do Jet.

One last thing worth noting is that the aircraft used to wear another special livery in its previous role at ANA. Specifically, for a few years, it operated as a “retro” jet wearing the Mohican livery which ANA used between 1969 and 1989. Prior to that, it wore ANA’s previous domestic livery (with Japanese titles). Between its stints as the Mohican Jet and the Bear Do Hokkaido Jet, it wore ANA’s current livery.

ANA Mohican Jet
ANA Mohican Jet.

Touring the Bear Do Hokkaido Jet

As the cabin of the Bear Do Hokkaido Jet stayed the same throughout its time with Air Do, let’s first do an onboard tour before talking in detail about the (almost) inaugural and farewell flights.

Just as with other Boeing aircraft, a metal plate with the aircraft model, serial number, and other details could be found attached to the L1 door frame. Being an ex-ANA aircraft, the aircraft model was 767-381 with “81” being ANA’s customer code. It is also worth noting that the Bear Do Hokkaido Jet was a non-ER version of the 767-300.

JA602A Serial Number Plate
Serial number plate.

Onboard, the aircraft featured 288 economy class seats in a 2-3-2 configuration. While the seats were fairly modern looking, other parts of the cabin were showing the aircraft’s age.

Bear Do Hokkaido Jet Cabin
Cabin view.
Bear Do Hokkaido Jet Cabin
…and from the back.
Bear Do Hokkaido Jet Cabin
Seat controls.

The overhead panels and small rectangular luggage bins as well as the windows reminded people that they were on a fairly old aircraft. So did the analog thermometers mounted in several places across the cabin.

Bear Do Hokkaido Jet Cabin
Overhead luggage bins.
Bear Do Hokkaido Jet Cabin
Emergency exits.
Bear Do Hokkaido Jet Cabin
Overhead panel.
Bear Do Hokkaido Jet Cabin

The aircraft’s galleys were an interesting sight as well. They remained unchanged from the time the aircraft was with ANA and were bright yellow. The retro-looking catering carts were bright yellow too and still featured the ANA logo.

One last reminder of the aircraft’s age I’m going to mention here is the video system control unit which featured an extremely low-resolution monitor.

Bear Do Hokkaido Jet Galley
Bear Do Hokkaido Jet Cabin
Video system control unit.

Boarding the Bear Do Hokkaido Jet’s Inaugural Taxiing

On July 29, 2016, shortly after 7AM, the atmosphere around Haneda airport’s gate 55 was festive. Air Do staff was preparing gift bags to hand out to Bear Do Hokkaido Jet’s inaugural passengers and aviation enthusiasts were gathering around the gate to wait for the flight. Outside, the aircraft appeared to be ready for its first flight.

While the flight information monitor, as well as a whiteboard in front of the gate, were showing that the flight would be delayed by 15 minutes due to maintenance, likely no one could even imagine what would actually follow next.

Bear Do Hokkaido Jet at Haneda
Bear Do Hokkaido Jet seemingly ready for its first flight.
Bear Do Hokkaido Jet Inaugural Flight
Gate 55.

A few minutes before 8:30AM, boarding began.

During boarding, Air Do’s President Susumu Kusano and a few others were handing out gift bags to passengers in the area leading to the jetway. Other Air Do staff was holding signs commemorating the inaugural flight. Passengers were taking their time to get onboard.

Bear Do Hokkaido Jet Inaugural Flight
Air Do President handing out gift bags.
Bear Do Hokkaido Jet Inaugural Flight
Bear Do Hokkaido Jet sign.

Onboard, the seats were decorated with Bear Do headrest covers. In the seat pockets, safety cards featuring a special Bear Do Hokkaido Jet design could be found. While I believe these features were present on the aircraft for quite some time, both the headrest covers and safety cards were back to the standard Air Do design during the farewell flight.

Bear Do Hokkaido Jet Headrest Cover
Special headrest cover.
Bear Do Hokkaido Jet Safety Card
Special safety card.

Shortly before 9AM, we taxied out. While we taxied all the way to runway 34R, we soon had to turn back as the aircraft was indicating a fuel leak. The pilots tried to resolve the issue for a while, however, not being able to do so, we started taxiing away from the runway. Stopping on the taxiway, we were soon joined by a fire truck.

Not long after that, an announcement was made that the pilots were unable to resolve the issue and that we would be heading back to a parking spot. At this point, the engines were shut down and a towing tug came to take us to a remote parking spot.

Bear Do Hokkaido Jet Inaugural Flight
Being escorted by a fire truck.
Bear Do Hokkaido Jet Inaugural Flight
Being towed back to a parking spot.

When we reached the parking spot, we were joined by more firefighters and safety personnel. It was shortly after 10AM, and the Bear Do Hokkaido Jet inaugural flight was over before even taking off. We all disembarked and were taken back to the terminal.

Bear Do Hokkaido Jet Inaugural Flight
Safety first.
Bear Do Hokkaido Jet Inaugural Flight

After some time in the terminal, we got on a bus again and were taken to JA601A which was parked next to the Bear Do Hokkaido Jet and was our substitute aircraft. From there on, things were smooth and we landed in Sapporo in no time.

The Bear Do Hokkaido Jet, on the other hand, as mentioned earlier, encountered some more technical issues. As such, it wasn’t until 5PM that it took off for the first time, bound for Sapporo as flight HD29.

Air Do 767-300
Boarding the substitute aircraft.

Onboard the substitute aircraft, drinks were served in special Bear Do Hokkaido Jet cups (these were not present on the farewell flight either). I used the flight time to go through the gift bag contents which among other things included a certificate. At least it was accurate as it only said “Boarding Certificate” and not “Flight Certificate.”

Bear Do Hokkaido Jet Cups
Bear Do Hokkaido Jet cup (back and front).
Bear Do Hokkaido Jet Inaugural Flight
Boarding certificate, pen, tissues, memo pad, fan, and file.
Bear Do Hokkaido Jet Inaugural Flight
Stickers and postcards.

All in all, while it was disappointing not to be on the special livery’s first flight, it was also an unforgettable experience to be on the aircraft’s “inaugural taxi,” a flight that had to be escorted back to its parking spot by a fire truck.

Flying Onboard the Bear Do Hokkaido Jet Last Flight

Fast forward a bit more than five years from the day of Bear Do Hokkaido Jet’s inaugural flight to December 9, 2021, and I again found myself at the airport waiting to fly on the aircraft. This time I was in Sapporo, waiting for Bear Do Hokkaido Jet’s farewell flight, HD32 to Tokyo.

After changing my award ticket to the correct flight (due to availability, I had to book a different flight first) at ANA’s check-in counters, I briefly stopped by Air Do’s check-in desks where plush toys and aircraft models were displayed. Then, I headed through security and into ANA Suite Lounge thanks to a friend guesting me.

Sapporo Air Do Check-in Counters
Decorations at the check-in counters in Sapporo.

Following a brief stay in the lounge, I headed to gate 6 where the flight was departing from. Dozens of aviation enthusiasts were gathered in front of the gate and a plush toy of the Bear Do Hokkaido Jet (previously placed near the check-in counters) was displayed there too.

Bear Do Hokkaido Jet Last Flight
Handmade plush Bear Do Hokkaido Jet.
Bear Do Hokkaido Jet Last Flight

Boarding started shortly before 6PM and as the passengers were heading down the jetway, the captain made sure to wave at everyone who happened to look through the jetway’s window at the cockpit.

At the end of the jetway, gift bags were being handed out. Onboard, after being greeted by one of the flight attendants, I received a “Token of thanks for eco” sticker featuring the Bear Do Hokkaido Jet. It was one of the stickers that Air Do normally hands out to passengers not getting a bag when they do onboard shopping.

Bear Do Hokkaido Jet Last Flight
Hello, Captain!
Bear Do Hokkaido Jet Last Flight
Gift bags being handed out.

The gift bag included a flight certificate (personally I liked the design of the inaugural flight certificate more), an inflatable airplane toy, and a keychain (my favorite).

Bear Do Hokkaido Jet Last Flight
Last flight certificate.
Bear Do Hokkaido Jet Last Flight
Inflatable Bear Do Hokkaido Jet and keychain.
Bear Do Hokkaido Jet Last Flight
Sticker and the other side of the keychain.

Onboard, I settled myself in my seat and waited for departure. At 6:07PM, the aircraft doors were closed and at 6:11PM (with an eleven-minute delay), the Bear Do Hokkaido Jet was pushed back in preparation for its last revenue flight. Just a few minutes of taxiing later, at 6:20PM, we took off from Sapporo New Chitose airport’s runway 19L.

Once seatbelt signs were switched off, the cabin crew made a welcome announcement thanking passengers for boarding Bear Do Hokkaido Jet’s last flight and mentioning that the aircraft has flown about 12,000 flights in the livery.

Soon after, the cabin crew entered the aisles with the fairly retro bright yellow drink carts and the service started. Just as on my previous Air Do flight, I went with a cup of hotate (scallop) soup and a cup of apple juice. As mentioned earlier, the drinks weren’t served in Bear Do-themed cups. Instead, they were served in cups promoting the scallop soup.

Bear Do Hokkaido Jet Last Flight
Drink menu.
Bear Do Hokkaido Jet Last Flight
Drink service.
Bear Do Hokkaido Jet Last Flight
Hotate soup-themed cups.

At 6:45PM, the captain welcomed us on board too. He mentioned that we were soon going to be flying over Iwate and that we were cruising at 36,000 feet. He also mentioned that it was 11 degrees Celsius and sunny in Tokyo.

Then, he talked briefly about the aircraft we were flying in, mentioning that it was retiring after this flight, that its design was based on Hokkaido (the home of Air Do), and that it has flown over 55,000 flight hours and 45,000 cycles since it entered into service in the late 1990s.

Lastly, he talked about his personal story at the airline and mentioned that he could really see that the passengers loved the aircraft when he saw their warm faces during boarding.

After the nice speech, some in the cabin clapped.

Bear Do Hokkaido Jet Last Flight
Standard Air Do safety card.

For the rest of the flight, I enjoyed the atmosphere onboard.

In addition to “regular” aviation enthusiasts, there were also many people that appeared to love Bear Do, the mascot. One of the passengers even brought with her several very nice plush toys of the aircraft that she made herself. It turned out that she really liked ANA’s retro Mohican Jet and became a fan of the JA602A airframe since then.

While the cabin crew was busy filling out logbooks for passengers, doing onboard sales, and posing for photos, they remained very friendly throughout and enjoyed the special flight together with the passengers.

Bear Do Hokkaido Jet Last Flight
Bear Do in the galley.
Bear Do Hokkaido Jet Last Flight
Amazing handmade plush aircraft.
Bear Do Hokkaido Jet Last Flight
Keychain from the onboard shopping catalog.
Bear Do Hokkaido Jet Last Flight
Passengers’ logbooks.

The seatbelt signs were switched back on at 7:21PM. At 7:35PM, we landed on Haneda airport’s runway 34R.

Just three minutes later, at 7:38PM, we came to a full stop at a remote parking spot.

Bear Do Hokkaido Jet Last Flight
Thank you for flying Air Do.

After spending twenty or so minutes onboard the aircraft waiting for most people to get off to get clean cabin photos (there were many of us with the same plan), I got off the aircraft. From there on, I spent quite some time photographing the aircraft from the outside.

It wasn’t until after 8:20PM that I got on the bus to get to the terminal, bringing the special flight to an end. As the bus was leaving, the crew was waving from the airstairs.

Bear Do Hokkaido Jet Last Flight
Deboarding the last flight.
Bear Do Hokkaido Jet
Bear Do Hokkaido Jet after its last revenue flight.

Goodbye Bear Do, Welcome Rokon!

Following the farewell flight, the Bear Do Hokkaido Jet spent a few days on the ground at Tokyo Haneda airport. After that, it was ferried to Roswell via Sapporo and Anchorage as follows:

  • December 13, 2021: HD9001 from Tokyo Haneda to Sapporo New Chitose
  • December 14, 2021: HD9051 from Sapporo New Chitose to Anchorage
  • December 15, 2021: HD9051 from Anchorage to Roswell

With that, Air Do went from having two special livery jets in its fleet to just the Rokon Hokkaido Jet which flew for the first time just a few days before the Bear Do Hokkaido Jet’s last flight.

Bear Do Hokkaido Jet in Asahikawa
Bear Do Hokkaido Jet’s last landing in Asahikawa.
Bear Do Hokkaido Jet and Rokon Jet
Bear Do Hokkaido Jet taxiing behind Rokon Jet after the latter’s first flight.

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