Home Book Reviews Why Spotting Was More Interesting in the 1970s and 80s

Why Spotting Was More Interesting in the 1970s and 80s

by Matt Falcus

We all keep up with the latest airlines, aircraft types and colour schemes as part of our hobby, but wasn’t it more interesting in the past?

It may be rose-tinted spectacles through which we look back, but you can certainly agree that there was much more variety in aircraft types and the colour schemes of airlines.

In the 1970s there were still many piston airliners plying their trade alongside early generation jet airliners.

Then by the 1980s there were lots of small leisure airlines trying to make the most of the holiday charter boom, particularly in Europe.

In my new book, Lost Airline Colours of Europe, the glory days of airlines and aircraft that could be seen in the past are presented in full colour. In some cases they are airlines no longer with us, whilst in others we see airlines that are still with us today but look very different.

Here’s a selection of pictures showing why spotting was more interesting in the 1970s and 80s.

British Airways Trident 3B

British Airways Trident 3B, with Balair Douglas DC-9s in the background.

Caledonian 747-200 G-BMGS

Caledonian operated this Boeing 747-200 on charter services during the 1980s.

Northeast Trident

Northeast Airlines was a regional airline from the UK which would merge into the newly formed British Airways in 1974.

Balair DC-8

Douglas DC-8s were much more common in the 1980s, including this example flown by Swiss airline Balair.

CSA OK Jet Tu-134

CSA Czech Airlines famously flew its aircraft in ‘OK Jet’ colours through the 1970s and 80s before the modern scheme was adopted.

TAP Caravelle

TAP Air Portugal is of course still with us, but its colour scheme in the 1970s was much different to today.

British Airways BAC 1-11

British Airways flew lots of BAC One-Eleven aircraft on regional and domestic services.

Balkan An-12

Balkan Bulgarian Airlines is no longer with us. In the 1980s it flew aircraft like this Antonov 12 from its Sofia base.

Itavia DC-9

Itavia was an Italian domestic airline which flew Douglas DC-9s and Handley Page Heralds. It suffered a fatal crash with one of its DC-9s.

Olympic Boeing 727

Olympic was the national airline of Greece, flying Boeing 707s, 727s and 737s out of the original Athens airport, seen here.


Which airlines do you miss the most? Leave a comment below.


lost-airline-colours-europe-coversmLost Airline Colours of Europe

Through full colour archive photographs this book traces many of the schemes which were familiar across Europe, including national carriers, leisure airlines from the holiday charter boom, and regional airlines feeding our smaller airports. Many airlines in these pages have now been lost forever, and others continue in a completely revised scheme. Available now.

Buy Now




You may also like


Gary October 9, 2016 - 1:40 pm

Court line mostly for the vivid colours. aircraft most missed the Viscount

Manni Gärtner July 1, 2017 - 9:32 am

The variety of the 70s and 80s and my current camera equipment – that would be a dream ?! The two airlines I miss the most: LTU International and PanAm! And of course: I miss all the Boeing 727s, 707s, all the DCs, the TriStars, the Tupolevs and Illushins, the BACs and Tridents and all of the classic props……!

Matt Falcus July 1, 2017 - 5:27 pm

Definitely Manni! Would love to have my camera to photograph those airliners!

Brian from meriden September 26, 2017 - 7:40 pm

I love the airliners and colour schemes from the seventies. After spending many many hours at Elmdon I never thought I’d miss one elevens, viscounts and heralds so much.

Matt Falcus September 27, 2017 - 8:30 am

Thanks Brian. I wonder if we’ll miss A320s and 737s as much when they’re gone?

Ray Jennings October 2, 2017 - 1:52 pm

Couldn’t agree more with Manni about mixing modern day equipment and70s and 80s airlines. Paticularly miss the carriers Air UK and Pan-Am but mostly miss the Vanguard, Britannia and VC-10.

Antonio Santiago March 14, 2018 - 11:53 pm

I miss mostly all, but Eastern, Pan Am, TWA, Continental, British Caledonian, Flying Tigers, Arrow Air, Alyemda, Mexicana, AeroPeru, Varig, Ecuatoriana, Dominicana, Prinair are iconic or at least semi-iconic names we don’t have anymore. Also Western, Carnival and Capitol Air with their beautiful liveries. and Dan air.

Daniel Stanislaus Martel December 29, 2019 - 5:33 pm

I remember all of them. I flew BA Trident, Ceskoslovenské Aerolinie TU-134, BCal BAC 1-11 and Balair, albeit the DC-10. I miss any of the great airlines, be it Pan Am, TWA, Interflug, Malev, Jugoslovenski Aerotransport…I had the privilege of travelling aboard all of them. Above all, I miss the niceties of inflight service, the personal contact at the respective town office, the emotion of purchasing their airline ticket… the then still many observation facilities, and the fact that far less people took the air. Finally, I regret the no longer available postcards… As a whole I do not regret the passage of the 1980, with the exception of spotting and travelling…

Lindsay May 29, 2020 - 6:05 pm

Well, I definitely agree with all written comments here! Love this site! I miss going to the airport with my father. Heathrow of course! We both went in the 80s and very early 90s. I miss the Ilyushin Il-86 roaring into land! That beautiful overgrown 707!! I miss the gorgeous BA Negus and Landor most of all!! Bring them back!

Matt Falcus May 31, 2020 - 4:29 pm

Thanks Lindsay!


Leave a Comment