The Powerful Way The Royal Air Force Paid Tribute Queen Elizabeth On Her Journey Back To London

The Royal Air Force had their work cut out for them when Queen Elizabeth II died. Since the Queen passed at her Balmoral estate in Scotland, a contingency plan called Operation Unicorn had been put into action, with the Royal Air Force bearing the responsibility of transporting her body back to London. 

The Guardian reports that the Queen's Color Squadron lifted her coffin to the back of the RAF C-17 Globemaster aircraft. It bore the callsign "Kittyhawk" — the official sign air traffic controllers use for any military flight boarding the Queen — for the last time. A military band reportedly played the national anthem after the plane took off, and when Kittyhawk arrived in Northolt, she was welcomed with a guard of honor composed of three officers and 96 aviators from the Royal Air Force. The King's Color for the Royal Air Force was also lowered in salute the whole time.

As the most traveled monarch in history, Queen Elizabeth had a special connection to the Royal Air Force, which is why they also made an effort to give a subtle tribute to her when they bid her farewell.

The Royal Air Force's choice of aircraft featured a touching tribute

The Royal Air Force could have used any aircraft to transport Queen Elizabeth's coffin from Scotland to London, but as a final farewell, they deliberately selected a plane with a registration that was close to her nickname. The RAF C-17 Master they used had a registration "ZZI77," which, if flipped, reads something close to "Lizz."

"Now we all know that very few people would ever call Her Late Majesty anything but Elizabeth but this was a lovely touch by the @RoyalAirForce to use this registration aircraft for her final flight," wrote Captain Dave Wellsworth on Twitter. According to the Royal Air Force, the plane they chose is often used "for combat, peacekeeping or humanitarian missions worldwide." It also happened to have carried thousands of people escaping Taliban in Kabul last year, per The Telegraph.

There was much fanfare over this particular aircraft when it carried Queen Elizabeth's coffin. According to aviation tracker website Flightradar24, roughly five million tracked the plane online during the one hour and 12-minute flight it took from Edinburgh to London. "Seventy years after her first flight as Queen aboard the BOAC Argonaut 'Atalanta,' Queen Elizabeth II's final flight is the most tracked flight in Flightradar24 history," Flightradar24 Director of Communications wrote in an email (via Euro News).