As a plane spotter you probably want to log or photograph as many different aircraft and airline liveries as possible. Yet sadly, some places are just not safe to go plane spotting.
Often in these countries there are rare and unique airlines to see, which would look great in your logbook or camera lens. But how can you see them if it’s dangerous to go to their operating bases?
Here are some suggestions on where to safely see airlines from dangerous countries.
This Venezuelan airline doesn’t appear to be a national carrier, but it is certainly the biggest. It has a fleet Airbus and Embraer types, plus a VIP Boeing 737-200. They even operate the world’s only Airbus A340-200 in passenger service. Yet visiting Venezuela isn’t advised at the moment.
Thankfully they have a focus city at Managua in Nicaragua, and it’s short-haul fleet can be seen all over the Caribbean, Central and Southern America. It’s A340-200 also ventures regularly to Belgrade, Moscow and Tehran.
No one should be contemplating a visit to Syria at the moment, despite how easy and safe it was to travel there in the past. The national carrier, Syrianair, amazingly still operates scheduled services. But its days of flying Boeing 727s, 747SPs and Tupolev Tu-134s are now gone. Today it flies Airbus A320s and two former Olympic Airways A340-300s. Outside of Syria, safe places you’re like to see their aircraft in Abu Dhabi, Doha, Dubai, Beirut, Kuwait, Moscow Vnukovo and Sharjah.
The national carrier of the Democratic Republic of Congo operates Airbus A320s, de Havilland Canada Q400s, and has Embraer 190-E2s on order. The airline mostly flies domestic routes, but you can see their A320s in Johannesburg regularly.
Ariana Afghan Airlines
With a chequered history which has been dictated largely by the political changes in Afghanistan, Ariana continues to fly today with a much smaller fleet. This includes Boeing 737-400s and -500s, plus an Airbus A310. You might see them operating to Moscow Sheremetyevo, Kuwait, Istanbul, Dubai and Delhi.
Similarly, Kam Air – now the largest operator in Afghanistan, has a large fleet of Airbus A340-300, Boeing 737-300, -400 and -500, ATR 42-500, Boeing 767-300, and McDonnell Douglas MD-80 series aircraft all based at Kabul International.
Look for them in safe places such as Istanbul, Dubai, Kuwait and Delhi.
A very old airline, and one which still soldiers on despite the obvious troubles experienced in the region. Iraq is much more stable today than 20 years ago, but travelling there is still against the advice of most Western governments. The airline has a fleet of Airbus A320/21, Boeing 737-800, Bombardier CRJ900LR, and two Boeing 747-400s. It is also planning to modernise with the addition of Airbus A220s, Boeing 737 MAX and 787-8 Dreamliners.
Outside of Iraq you can see them flying to Bahrain, Sofia, Guangzhou, Copenhagen, Berlin Brandenburg, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Munich, Delhi, Mumbai, Kuwait, Beirut, Moscow Vnukovo, Gothenburg, Stockholm Arlanda, Antalya, Istanbul and Dubai.
The airline previously flew to London Gatwick, and it announced plans to fly to Manchester before Covid-19 hit.
Still hoping to grow, with Airbus A350s on order, Libyan Airlines today flies A320s, A330-300s, Bombardier CRJ900s and an ATR 42-500. It’s not advised to travel to Libya, but you can still see their aircraft in places like Athens, Casablanca and Istanbul, with hopes to add more European destinations post-Covid.
One of the most famous countries on the list is probably North Korea. While it’s not necessarily unsafe to go there, it is a very restrictive place and any visit should only be done through a recognised travel agency.
The country’s national airline, Air Koryo, still flies a mouthwatering array of ageing Soviet-era aircraft types, as well as some more recent ones.
To log these aircraft outside North Korea you’ll need to head to Beijing Capital, where regular scheduled services link to Pyongyang.
As always, advice on which countries are safe to visit varies depending on the current political situation. You should always check the latest information before contemplating visiting an unusual country.