Home Spotting Resources 11 Adventurous Journeys for Plane Spotters

11 Adventurous Journeys for Plane Spotters

by Matt Falcus

If you’re the kind of aviation enthusiast who loves to visit new places and see aircraft in far flung corners of the globe, or even fly on unusual aircraft types, then we’ve got some great ideas here.

It can be easy to fall into a rut of always visiting the same airport, and making do with flying on the same old airliners and aircraft that are just easy. But out there are some amazing adventures for spotters which will bring a whole new world of aircraft to see and places to visit.

Which will you choose?


1 Alaska Milk Run

A long-standing part of Alaska Airlines’ network is its so-called Milk Run. This is, in fact, a series of routes flown under the Essential Air Services (EAS) banner to provide vital links to remote communities in Alaska.

It is usually flown by a Boeing 737-700 Combi aircraft, with both passenger and cargo on board, and originates in either Anchorage or Seattle.

Flight numbers include AS61, 62, 64, 65, 66 and 67, and destinations include Juneau, Yakutat, Cordova, Sitka, Ketchikan, Petersburg and Wrangell.

Many enthusiasts choose to fly on this simply for the adventure. Spending hours on the same aircraft popping in and out of remote communities can be great fun, and you get a glimpse of a part of America few see.


2 United’s Pacific Island Hopper

Like Alaska’s Milk Run, United Airlines also provides a service across the Pacific Ocean which links many outlying islands and their communities with the wider world and hubs.

Known as the Island Hopper, this route originates in Honolulu, Hawaii, and makes its way to Guam via stops in Johnston Island, Majuro Atoll, Kwajalein Atoll, Kosrae Island, Pohnpei and Chuuk. It can take 16 hours to complete the journey!

This route today is served mostly by Boeing 737-800 and MAX types, on flight number UA154/155.


3 World’s Shortest Flight

The world’s shortest commercial flight takes place in the Orkney Islands, off the north coast of Scotland.

These islands are served by a myriad of local routes, operated by Loganair, linking to the main airport at Kirkwall, or the mainland airport at Aberdeen.

The shortest route of these bus-stop services is between the islands of Westray and Papa Westray, with a distance of 1.7 miles (2.7km). The flight time is scheduled at 90 seconds, but can often take less than a minute.

Avgeeks have long flocked to take this flight, usually served by a BN Islander aircraft. But beware, it is often cancelled due to the weather or operational reasons!


4 World’s Longest Flight

With quite a contrast to the shortest flight, the current longest scheduled flight is between Singapore and New York JFK, at 9,537 miles and a flight time of 18 hours and 50 minutes. In fact, their similar link to Newark is only 15 miles and 5 minutes shorter, so can be lumped in to this.

Flying such a long distance is an endurance, but great to tick off the bucket list.

These flights are not cheap, with no economy seating available. If you want to try something long but often more affordable, you could look at Perth to London Heathrow with Qantas (9,010 miles) or Dubai to Auckland with Emirates (8,824 miles).


5 Rare Airliner Hunting in Africa

Africa is rapidly catching up with the rest of the world in terms of its aviation industry. It’s perfectly common to see Airbus A320, Boeing 737 and Embraer E-Jet family aircraft operating for the major airlines there.

However, dig a little deeper and you can still find flights on some rarer types.

Among them is the world’s last scheduled operator of the Douglas DC-9, African Express Airways of Kenya.

There are also operators of types like the De Havilland Canada DHC-7, Fokker 50, Fokker 70, Boeing 737-200 and BAe 146 in service across Africa.


[Find out where to fly rare and historic airlines in Last Chance to Fly, available exclusively to Airport Spotting Premium members]


6 Explore the Caribbean

The islands and small nations of the Caribbean are a great playground for aviation enthusiasts, spotters and photographers.

These sun kissed places are littered with airports and airfield, and smaller airlines flying commuter types, or even some rarer old aircraft like the Embraer Brasilia and Short 360.

Airports like Sint Maarten is iconic for its big jets landing low over the beach, whilst St Barthelemy has to cram its small runway into such a small strip of land that pilots have to swoop just over head height as they pass the nearby road!

Elsewhere there are great airports to visit in places like Antigua, Barbados, the Bahamas and Aruba.


7 Hop Around Norway

Another great adventure that involves flying in and out of remote communities can be found in Norway.

While the main airlines, SAS and Norwegian, fly direct links to many of these distant airports from the bigger hubs like Oslo and Bergen, regional airline Wideroe operates a spider’s web of routes hopping all along the coast right up into the Arctic Circle.

These routes are flown by their venerable fleet of De Havilland Canada DHC-8s, including the tiny -100 series and rare -200 series.

You can pick a couple of legs, or stay on for the long-haul way up north, and enjoy the magnificent scenery of the fjords along the way.

[Trip Report: Flying Wideroe’s Dash 8s in Norway]


8 Arizona’s Boneyards

Arizona is a desert state, and it has some airports that are the final resting places of many retired airliners.

Places like Marana Pinal Airpark, Phoenix Goodyear, Kingman, Tucson International and the famous Davis-Monthan Air Force Base are usually full to the brim of these silent airliners lined up in rows.

In most cases they will be parted out and turned into scrap. Very occasionally one will be given a new lease of life.

The best way to get around is by car, but for the full experience hire a scenic flight from one of the local airfields where you can see these storage sites from the air and take some amazing photographs.


9 Beijing and Datangshan

Tupolev Tu-124 at Datangshan Museum near Beijing. Photo (c) allen watkin

China will undoubtedly soon become the most important country for air travel. Its huge population is increasingly mobile and the country’s airlines are operating thousands of airliners.

Beijing now has two main airports, Capital and Daxing, and they are very busy. Spotting here can be very fruitful for your logbooks.

Nearby is the Datangshan Museum, to the north of the city. This is a military museum, home to hundreds of retired aircraft on display. Among the collection are many civil types, like Hawker Siddeley Tridents, Douglas DC-8, Vickers Viscount and Soviet types once flown in the country.

You can reach the museum by subway and bus, but it might be easier to take a taxi.


10 The World’s Busiest Airport

At present, the world’s busiest airport is Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International, which is home to Delta Air Lines and a major hub for Southwest Airlines.

This five-runway mega airport sees simultaneous take-offs and landings every minute and is an amazing place if you’re into logging registrations (tail numbers).

Unfortunately there are no official spotting locations. But on the northern perimeter is arguably the world’s best plane spotting hotel – the Renaissance Concourse at Atlanta. This hotel has 11 floors and one side features balconies overlooking the airport.

If you book one of these rooms, you won’t miss any of the action from morning till late at night, and can take some amazing photographs. A true bucket list trip for spotters!

[Trip Report: A Spotting Trip to Atlanta]


11 Journey Into Canada’s North

The remoteness of Canada’s northern territories and communities makes air travel essential for these tiny populations and places of industry.

To serve these places, airlines like Air Inuit, Nolinor and Air North fly rugged aircraft like the Boeing 737-200, -300 and various turboprops into small, unprepared airstrips and airports. Often they have a combination passenger/cargo cabin.

The general public can book tickets on these flights and experience this part of the world.

Yellowknife is one of the hubs serving these places, and it is home to Buffalo Airways and its fleet of wartime piston airliners still in regular use today. Another reason to visit the area!


Have you taken an adventurous journey as a plane spotter? Where did you go? Leave a comment below!




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