With modern aviation dominated by the latest technology and aircraft types, particularly from the stables of Airbus, ATR, Boeing and Embraer, it can often feel like there’s little variation in flying.
Those who remember the days when each aircraft type looked different and had sounds which made the experience of flying all the more exhilarating, might lament the quiet, uniform airliners of today very much.
Yet there are still opportunities to fly older and rarer types if you know where to look.
Our reference guide, Last Chance to Fly, which is available to Airport Spotting Premium Members (and updated regularly) is a good place to start.
But for an overview, here are some of the current opportunities to fly on unusual aircraft types around the world in 2022.
Africa is a difficult place to travel to and fly in, and its safety record (both on the ground and in the air) is somewhat lacking. That is, apart from the larger airlines like Ethiopian, Kenya Airways, Royal Air Maroc etc, which only fly modern types.
Among the classics still flying, there are Boeing 737-200s active with Air Zimbabwe.
One of the most exciting opportunities in Africa is with the world’s last Douglas DC-9 passenger aircraft, which are still flying with African Express Airways and Eastafrican in Kenya.
There are also opportunities to fly the Douglas DC-3 and DC-4 at Skyclass Aviation near Johannesburg, South Africa.
Asia & Middle East
Iran is one of the last places you can fly many rarer types, owing to sanctions on the country which prevent it from purchasing newer aircraft types. Opportunities include:
Airbus A300B2, A300B4 and A300B4-600R with Iran Air
Airbus A300B4-600R with Iran Air Tours, Qeshm Air and Meraj Air.
Mahan Air, which until recently also flew the Boeing 747-300, still flies types like the Airbus A300B4-600, A310-300, A340-300 and -600, and Boeing 747-400.
Iran’s airlines also fly many examples of the McDonnell Douglas MD-80 series and Fokker 100 aircraft.
North Korea is also one of the last bastions of rarer aircraft, with the national carrier Air Koryo still flying Antonov An-148, An-26, Ilyushin Il-18, IL-62, Tupolev Tu-134, Tu-154 and Tu-204 in its fleet. These are only available through organised tours, which have not been occurring since the Covid-19 pandemic hit.
Another rare type found in Asia is the Xian/AVIC MA60 turboprop airliner, which still flies regularly with Joy Air in China, Lao Skyway in Laos, and Nepal Airlines based at Kathmandu.
And of course there are many de Havilland DHC-6 Twin Otters and Dornier 228s flying in Nepal, particularly on domestic services.
Australasia & Pacific
Australia has a number of opportunities to fly rarer types.
For a start, a the Melbourne Gooney Bird organisation flies the Douglas DC-3 on pleasure flights (as does Fly DC3 NZ at Ardmore, near Auckland, New Zealand).
Vintage Embraer types are still flown in Australia and New Zealand, including the EMB110 Bandeirante with Air Rarotonga, and EMB120 Brasilia with Airnorth and Skippers Aviation.
Alliance Airlines also flies the Fokker 70 and 100 within Australia. The Fokker 100 still flies for Virgin Australia Regional Airlines, too.
Not really a historic type, but the relatively rare Airbus A318 ‘baby bus’ is now only available to fly in Europe. Both Air France and TAROM still have active examples.
Some other rarer types you can fly in Europe include:
- Airbus A340-300 with Lufthansa, Swiss and Edelweiss Air.
- Boeing 747-400 with Lufthansa.
- Boeing 757-300 with Condor and Icelandair.
- Saab 340 and de Havilland DHC-6 Twin Otter with Loganair.
- Dornier 228 with Sevenair in Portugal and Aurigny in the UK.
There are a few of classic airliners still offering pleasure flights in Europe, like the de Havilland Dragon Rapide with Classic Wings at Duxford, UK, or the de Havilland Heron with LTU Classic in Germany.The world’s only active Lisunov Li-2 is based in Hungary, and often flies with passengers on pleasure flights.
The Boeing 717 is one of the rarer types from this manufacturer. It is still going strong (for the time being) in America with Delta Air Lines, who fly their aircraft out of various hubs. Hawaiian Airlines also fly the type on its inter-island services.
You could try flying on the Fairchild Metroliner or Dornier 328 with Denver Air Connection.
One of the world’s last bastions of the Boeing 737-200 is in Canada, where the type lives on flying into the remote north with carriers like Air Inuit, Canadian North and Norlinor.
The United States is also one of the best places to find a flight on the venerable Douglas DC-3, albeit with one of the many heritage operators around the country, rather than in airline service.
And for a true classic, head to Oshkosh and fly on the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Ford TriMotor NC8704.
South America & Caribbean
Cuba’s national airline, Cubana, is currently the only carrier still regularly flying the Ilyushin Il-96, often on routes to Europe and South America.
In the Caribbean, it’s also still possible to fly the Short 360 turboprop, with Pineapple Air and SAP Air.
Within South America, you can fly on the Boeing 737-200 with airlines like Conviasa, RUTACA and Avior in Venezuela, and Aviatsa in Honduras.
The BAe 146 and Avro RJ is also still going strong in the continent, with airline like Aerovias DAP in Chile and ecojet in Bolivia using the types.
Russia & Ukraine
For obvious reasons, travel to Russia from outside the country is not advised or really possible at the moment. However, the country’s airlines are still flying many rarer types of aircraft, even with reports of Ilyushin Il-86s being reactivated recently!
Many of the country’s smaller operators still fly types like the Antonov An-24/26, An-148, Tupolev Tu-204/214, Yakovlev Yak-40 and Yak-42.
Similarly, Ukraine was a popular destination for special flight enthusiasts up until the war started in early 2022. There, Motor Sich Airlines in particular was providing regular passenger flights on the Antonov An-26, An-74, and An-140. However, until the conflict is resolved and the future of Ukraine determined, any opportunities to fly there have been lost.
What About Older Types?
Sadly the days of flying older types of aircraft, like the Boeing 707, 727, 747-100/200/SP, Concorde, Douglas DC-6, DC-7, DC-8, Lockheed TriStar, McDonnell Douglas DC-10 and Vickers Viscount are all gone.
In some cases cargo or VIP examples still fly, but these are not possible to fly on as a passenger (or enthusiast!)
Have you flown on any of these rarer aircraft types recently? We’d love to hear your trip reports. Why not leave a comment below with your story, or get in touch and send us an account to publish for others to enjoy!
Last Chance to Fly
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