A new year and a blank canvas for your spotting hobby and aviation interests. Have you made any plans for the airports you’ll visit this year? Which aircraft are you looking forward to seeing?
I’ve put together this checklist of the aircraft to look out for in 2017, whether they be new colour schemes, new types, old aircraft retiring, or something that has been preserved.
So without any further hesitation, here’s the list:
The stretched variant of the popular A350 first flew in November 2016 and is undergoing testing. The first delivery to Qatar Airways is expected in late-2017.
The upgraded regional E-jet from Embraer comes in three variants. The E190-E2 appeared at 2016’s Farnborough Air Show and will be seen testing in 2017. Look out for the first signs of the E175-E2 and E195-E2 prototype aircraft.
Swiss European Air Lines became the launch customer for the Bombardier CSeries in 2016 when it took delivery of its first CS100s. More are due for delivery in 2017. They fly on regional routes across Europe from Zurich.
Prototype Boeing 727
The original Boeing 727-100 (N7001U) made a final, historic flight from Everett Paine Field to Boeing Field in 2016, painted in original United Airlines colours, for preservation at the Museum of Flight. It is now on display to the public.
The launch customer of the larger CS300 CSeries aircraft is airBaltic, which took its first aircraft in December 2016. It will launch many routes from Riga across Europe with the type in 2017, so go out and see it!
One of the smartest liveries on the Airbus A350 in my opinion is that of Thai Airways International. Their aircraft are beginning services around the Far East, and to long haul destinations such as Melbourne, Milan, Rome and Frankfurt.
Uzbekistan Airways has a single Dreamliner in its fleet after taking delivery recently. It plans to fly it on several regional routes in early 2017, and then focus on long-haul services to Riga, New York JFK and Seoul Incheon.
New Qantas livery
Qantas Airways quietly introduced a modified version of its livery recently. It includes a new logo and streamlined font, and is intended to coincide with its first Boeing 787 deliveries in 2017. The rest of the fleet will slowly be painted into the new scheme.
Irish regional carrier CityJet is now the first Western European operator of the Sukhoi SSJ Superjet. Once certification for London City Airport operations is approved it will feature on more of the airline’s schedules. At present the type operates charter and training flights.
Volotea A319Spanish low-cost airline Volotea was a champion of the outcast Boeing 717, but is now switching to second-hand Airbus A319s. More aircraft are due in 2017, so it will appear on more of Volotea’s route network.
KLM Cityhopper Fokker 70
The venerable regional jet will finally disappear from KLM Cityhopper’s fleet in October 2017 after faithfully serving the carrier’s regional destinations out of Amsterdam Schiphol for many years. Time to get a trip or photograph before it’s too late.
Air France 787-9
Air France became one of the most recent operators of the Dreamliner, and they look pretty smart. To start with the airline is flying their 787s on the Paris to London link for most of 2017, so it’s an easy way to see and fly on one if you’re in Europe.
Mitsubishi MRJFour test aircraft have emerged so far, with some of them travelling from Japan to Moses Lake in Washington State for pre-certification testing.
Comac ARJ-21The new Chinese regional jet which closely resembles a Douglas DC-9. It is already flying with Chengdu Airlines on domestic services in China, and more are to be delivered in due course.
Boeing 737 MAX
The newest variant of the Boeing classic is already flying as prototypes. First deliveries to Norwegian Air Shuttle and Southwest Airlines of the MAX will take place in 2017.
Now on to the latest A320 variant. The neo has already started flying with a number of carriers, such as Lufthansa, Spirit Airlines, IndiGo, SAS and Qatar Airways.
Philippine Airlines A350
Philippine Airlines will take delivery of their first Airbus A350-900s in 2017. The airline plans to operate them to Toronto and New York, but is likely to also send them on shorter regional routes initially.
The first uprated Airbus A330neo was recently rolled out at Toulouse ahead of testing, which will commence in 2017. TAP is due to receive their first example in 2019.
The new Gulfstream G500 executive jet features cutting edge technology and economics. It is due to continue testing in 2017 ahead of first deliveries in 2018.
Air Seoul A321
A smart new low-cost carrier in South Korea, owned by Asiana Airlines. It flies Airbus A31s to China, Japan, Malaysia, Cambodia, and on domestic routes.
The Japanese Air Self-Defense Force recently replaced its Boeing 747-400 VIP transports with a new 777-300 which looks really smart. Maybe you’ll see it on its worldwide travels in 2017.
Sky Gates 747-400F
A brand new cargo airline based at Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport in Russia has started flying with a leased Boeing 747-400 freighter in a smart grey livery. It plans to add at least two more aircraft.
New Cyprus Airways
It was really sad to see long-established European airline Cyprus Airways disappear in 2015. But now the airline has re-emerged and plans to operated Airbus A319s. It’s actually called Charlie Airlines, but uses the more familiar brand.
Rossiya Airlines Tiger 747-400
Transaero Airlines famously painted one of its Boeing 747-400a with a striking tiger design, and then stopped flying. Now, Rossiya Airlines has resurrected the image on its aircraft, which coincidentally were formerly flown by Transaero. Get a picture of this while it lasts!
Royal Thai Air Force SSJ
Sukhoi SSJ Superjets are finding their way into the hands of some unusual operators. One of these is the Royal Thai Air Force, which has two examples.
A new airline from Saudi Arabia which has struggled to get its aircraft flying, but has now commenced operations using Airbus A320s. SaudiGulf flies domestically within the country.
Russian Post Tu-204
The Russian postal service has started flying two second-hand Tupolev Tu-204 freighters, RA-64051 and RA-64052 in a striking blue livery. They fly out of Moscow Vnukovo Airport.
Porter 150th Anniversary Canada Q400
Porter Airlines has applied a nice special livery on Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 C-GLQB to commemorate the 150th birthday of Canada in 2017. You’ll likely see it at Toronto Billy Bishop airport regularly.
Aeromexico ‘Quetzalcoatl’ 787-9As Aeromexico’s new 787-9s start flying on the airline’s long-haul network, one to look out for XA-ADL which wears this special child-like scheme promoting Mexican heritage.
There are lots of Airbus A350s out there now, but Lufthansa became one of the most recent customers to take delivery. Its aircraft will be based at Munich and fly to Boston, Delhi and more destinations.
The latest biz jet to come from Bombardier’s line is the Global 7000. Four test aircraft will be undertaking certification in 2017 from the Downsview factory in Toronto. It is the largest purpose-built biz jet.
Lufthansa Retro 747-8
Lufthansa is good at applying special titles and schemes to its aircraft. Boeing 747-8 D-ABYA has had a special retro scheme applied reflecting the airline’s previous livery. I’m not sure how long it will last, so grab a shot now!
ANA Star Wars jets
All Nippon Airways has three Star Wars livery jets flying currently to promote the new films. They are Boeing 777-300ER JA789A (BB-8), Boeing 787-9 JA873A (R2-D2) and Boeing 767-300ER JA604A (R2-D2 and BB-8)
Swiss leisure carrier Edelweiss has now taken delivery of former Swiss International Airbus A340-300 HB-JMG. Three more are due to follow.
Loganair new colours
Scottish carrier Loganair has recently announced its split from franchise operations with Flybe, effective in mid-2017. It will then be applying a new tartan-inspired livery to its aircraft and opening some new routes.
French Blue A330A new airline formed in 2016 to operate low-cost long haul flights out of Paris Orly. French Blue has a single Airbus A330-300 at present, and expects to take delivery of two A350-900s in due course.
American Airlines MD-80
The once huge fleet of McDonnell Douglas MD-80 series aircraft operated by American Airlines is quickly diminishing. If you haven’t seen, photographed, or even flown on one yet, then 2017 may be the year for you to do so. Dallas Ft Worth Airport is the best place to see them, as well as Rosewell storage airport.
PAWA Dominicana MD-83PAWA operates throughout the Caribbean from its base in Santo Domingo, and also operates to Miami, so it shouldn’t be hard to spot one of these rare McDonnell Douglas jets this year.
Orbis International DC-10
One of the few Douglas DC-10s still flying, this example recently joined Orbis International as a flying eye hospital. The aircraft flown today is in fact a former FedEx MD-10 (N330AU). [Here’s a video about it]
United Airlines 777-300ER
United has been flying Boeing 777s since the type first entered service in 1996. However, the airline has never operated the stretched -300 model… until now. The first aircraft (N2331U) of an order for 14 of the type should be in service by January. [Where will the United 777-300s fly?]
Cubana An-158Quite a rare Russian airliner is the Antonov An-158. It is a stretched version of the An-148, featuring twin jet engines on a high mounted wing. Cubana is one of two airlines flying the type, and with greater access to Cuba now, maybe you’ll get to see one!
Mahan Air 747-300
Mahan Air has become the sole operator of the Boeing 747-300, and just how long it will continue flying the ‘stretched upper deck’ classic is anyone’s guess. Time to go see it.
Goldtimer Lisunov Li-2The only know example of the Russian licence-built Douglas DC-3, the Lisunov Li-2, is operated by the Goldtimer Foundation at Budaörs in Hungary. HA-LIX is the plane, and it offers pleasure flights during summer months, as well as airshow appearances. Visit their website at http://www.goldtimer.hu/foundation.html
The airline still has plenty of these aircraft flying from its bases in Atlanta, New York etc, but they’ll be gone before you know it. So make sure you’ve seen them and got some pictures for posterity.
JASDF NAMC YS-11Another entry for the Japanese Air Self Defence Force. Believe it or not, but they still operate a number of indigenous NAMC YS-11 turboprops which were built in the early 1970s. I don’t think they’ll be around much longer.
Lufthansa Cargo MD-11As more Boeing 777 freighters join Lufthansa Cargo, its ageing McDonnell Douglas MD-11 fleet is being replaced. Few operators remain of this tri-jet, especially in Europe.
Royal Air Maroc 747RAM only flies one Boeing 747-400 aircraft, so it’s pretty hard to see it. Its registration is CN-RGA, and it mostly flies as a VIP transport for the king out of its Casablanca base. As such it can be seen around Europe on occasion.
Cathay Dragon A330Dragon Airways has been rebranded as Cathay Dragon to better keep it in line with its parent, Cathay Pacific. Its aircraft are now appearing in the new red livery, which make a nice new photo subject when in Hong Kong.
Kuwait Airways 777 New Livery
Kuwait Airways has unveiled its first new livery in many years to coincide with the delivery of its first Boeing 777-300ER, 9K-AOC, which will be flying to many destinations around the globe on the carrier’s network.
Alaska Virgin Merger Plane
To celebrate the recently approved merger between Alaska Airlines and Virgin America, Alaska has painted its Boeing 737-900 N493AS in a special livery, entitled ‘More to Love’.