9 iconic aircraft disappearing from the skies – including the 747 'jumbo jet'
With two of the biggest airlines on the planet retiring their last 747s in recent months, we highlight some of the most important aircraft facing extinction.
The 747 will remain in the sky for some time to come – a remarkable 1,536 have been built and delivered since 1969 and they remain an important part of countless airline fleets, including that of British Airways, which owns 41 of the jumbo jets, and Virgin Atlantic, which has eight.
But they are slowly being phased out. BA has said the model will be gone from its hangers by 2024, last week United waved goodbye to its final 747 with a farewell flight from San Francisco to Honolulu (recreating the route of its first 747 service in 1970).
Aer Lingus took delivery of two Boeing 747s in the early 1970s, famously flying Pope John Paul II onboard one (above) during his 1979 trip to Ireland.
United’s US rival Delta retired its last 747 in September. Before long this iconic aircraft, the world’s biggest passenger plane for 37 years, will be the preserve of the planet’s smaller airlines.
The largest aircraft built by Dutch manufacturer Fokker before it declared bankruptcy in 1996, the Fokker 100, and its smaller sibling, the Fokker 70, is rapidly disappearing from the skies.
KLM, the world’s oldest airline and for decades its biggest customer, retired its final Fokker on October 28, and it is estimated that by the end of the year only 12 Fokker 100s will be left in Europe (Helvetic Airways, based in Switzerland, will be the continent’s biggest Fokker operator, with five).
Virgin Australia Regional Airlines still uses the Fokker 100, but is planning to replace them with ATRs. Other airlines still flying the Dutch aircraft include Iran Air, Papua New Guinea's Air Niugini, and Air Panama.
Airbus ceased production of the A300, the world’s first twin-engined widebody, a decade ago, and they are becoming a rare sight indeed.
FedEx and UPS still use them for cargo services, but only a handful of passenger airlines fly them, including Mahan Air, based in Iran, which has 16 on its books, and Air Hong Kong.
The trijet was certainly popular for a time. The Hawker Siddeley Trident, which first flew in 1962, the Lockheed Tristar, introduced in 1972, the Tupolev Tu-154, unveiled in the same year, and the DC-10, which debuted in 1971, are notable examples.
But they soon fell from favour, making the sight of an aircraft with a middle engine now truly novel.
Boeing’s only trijet, the 727, has been out of production since 1984, but is still used by a few carriers. Once again it is Iran holding the torch for outdated aircraft, with Iran Aseman Airlines still operating three 727-200s.
Kalitta Charters, based in Michigan, is another that still flies them.
McDonnell Douglas DC-9
McDonnell Douglas has been defunct since 1997, but its aircraft can still be seen, though in ever decreasing numbers. Almost 1,000 DC-9s were built, but fewer than 100 are still in the sky, almost all of which are running cargo services. Passengers with LASER Airlines, based in Venezuela, Fly SAX, based in Kenya, and Aeronaves TSM, based in Mexico, can still board a DC-9.
McDonnell Douglas MD-80
The MD-80 has been out of service for almost 20 years, but a couple of US airlines still use them. Delta has a clutch of 30-year-old MD-80s, as does American Airlines, the oldest of which was delivered in 1986. Expect them to be phased out slowly but surely over the coming years.
This turboprop was one of the most iconic Soviet airliners - at a time when the sprawling country’s questionable air safety record was something of a running joke - but has been out of service since 1985.
In the last five years it has disappeared from the fleets of Aeroflot and Rossiya Airlines, as well as a clutch of Cuban airlines.
In fact, our research suggests that only two carriers still fly them. Sri Lanka’s FitsAir, which has one for cargo services, and Air Koryo, North Korea’s national airline, often rated the world’s worst, which also owns one, but only uses it for domestic services.
North Korea is also the place to go if you want to experience this Soviet throwback (though the Department of Foreign Affairs advises against travel to the country) - Koryo Air has two Tu-134s on its books, though they, like the Il-18 aren’t used for international services. Sirius-Aero, a Russian charter airline, and Berkut Air, based in Kazakhstan, are other options.
McDonnell Douglas DC-3
Earlier this year, Telegraph Travel went on the hunt for the oldest passenger plane still in service. It found a Boeing 737-200 with the serial number 20335 that was built in 1970 and is currently flown by Airfast Indonesia.
More recently, it was pointed in the direction of Buffalo Airlines, a family-run Canadian carrier. It owns six DC-3s, a model that has been out of service since 1950. Scheduled passenger flights have been suspended, but they are available for charter services.
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