My interest in aviation bloomed in 2004, though it did not truly take off until 2008. Planes come and go over the years but some are more special than others. Here are five planes I either never had the chance or took the opportunity to fly.
Just as I was getting started, Concorde flew for the last time. The concept of leaving London or Paris and arriving in New York earlier than you left fascinated me and still does. I lament that (at least thus far) there has been no supersonic replacement to Concorde, meaning it takes longer to cross the Atlantic than it did 30 years ago.
Concorde was super-expensive, but this is (the) one aircraft I would have dropped several large on in order to fly. Even that would not have been necessary, most likely, using the right mix of miles and being super-flexible.
My uncle was part of the Lockheed L1011 design team and always reminded me growing up that it was the first aircraft to feature an auto-landing option. By 2004, almost all L1011s had been retired, but not all of them.
Remember ATA? It had a few L1011s in the fleet, using them primarily for military charters. But once in awhile they appeared on scheduled routes. One such instance was over the Christmas holidays in 2006 on the Los Angeles to Honolulu route. I would not even have had to re-position!
But I was a young student back then and the price tag was high – business was over $1K and even a one-way coach ticket was $400. Plus we had to get back. I do regret not just booking it for my uncle and me. He often mentioned how he’d love to fly the L1011 once more.
Another missed opportunity: Royal Air Force military charters from the UK to the Falklands. Up until around 2013, the flight was operated by L1011s with civilians allowed to travel. This was much more expensive than a $400 coach ticket, but if I had the chance again to fly it today, I would.
Sadly, the closest I have come to flying on an L1011 is being inside one at the Delta Museum in Atlanta.
Mahan Air in Iran was the last aircraft to operate the Boeing 707, retiring it a few years ago due to a U.S. embargo that made getting spare parts virtually impossible. The plane was still operating when I visited Iran in 2011 and I did toy with trying to get on it. But visa complications and time prohibitions made it too great an effort.
I discussed on this blog whether to fly to Tehran last year to catch one of Iran Air’s last 747SP flights. The $800+ price tag for economy class coupled with several positioning flight and the realization that I had been away from home far too much led me to decline this opportunity.
Certainly it would have been nice, but when I fly Iran Air (I am looking forward to it) I want to spend time in the country.
Another aircraft I could have flown…twice…but did not. Northwest Airlines operated a DC-10 between Minneapolis and Honolulu, its last DC-10 route. There were several days I was close to booking it, but ultimately let the opportunity pass.
The second opportunity arose when Biman Bangladesh Airlines ran a special retirement flight for its DC-10 to London. I found out about it just a few days before. While the price of the flight itself was reasonable enough and I would have enjoyed spending a day in Dhaka, it was during law school exams so I passed up the opportunity.
From the same family, KLM ran MD-11s until about two years ago. But getting to Panama City or Montreal then flying coach proved to be too much to handle.
You can see these are all relatively recent aircraft. Certainly I would love to have flown on the Lockheed Constellation or DC-3, but those were long gone by the time I came of age. And these two aircraft are actually still around on special heritage flights. I could theoretically still hunt these down.
Are there any aircraft that you wanted to fly but were never able to?
I’ve flown the 707, 720, original 747, DC10, TriStar. BAC 111, Fokker Friendship, Concorde, VC-10, and (as late at the mid 70s) a Lockheed Constellation.
You can still fly in a DC-3 if you can make your way up to YZF (Yellowknife, Canada)
Of the jets, I’ve flown most of them but the Concorde and the VC-10. Done all the Airbuses, Boeings, Douglases and the L-1011. I also would have like to have flown the Convair 880, which was faster than the 707/DC-8, but a gas hog, so didn’t last long.
The 747SP was my aircraft of choice between JFK-DHA back in the late 70’s/80’s. A nice comfy 3-5-3 in coach. Woo hoo!
And the 707 was the loudest plane ever.
I flew as a passenger on Concorde operated by Air France during its last week of service; and I may post an article of a trip report of that experience…
…and I redeemed 160,000 Delta Air Lines SkyMiles for the experience.
Please do, especially if you took pictures. I would love to read it!
I have both photographs and video.
Thank you for the encouragement, Matthew.
Only 1 aircraft comes to mind – the Super VC-10. I loved watching that graceful bird at Boston/Logan when I was a kid. would have done anything to have flown on her.
I was fortunate enough to fly both the DC-10 and L-1011, though I never made it on the MD-11. That’s probably my biggest regret – I had the means by then to piece together a crazy trip to make that happen, but just never put in the effort.
Not that it’s a substitute for flying in one, but did you know you can board the Concorde housed next to BGI airport in Barbados?
Wow, great memories. ATA was founded and headquartered out of IND where I live. The founder was J. George Mikelsons who started the airlines as a travel club and expanded from there. I met George several times and he was indeed a fascinating, generous and interesting guy who was also a pilot. He flew many of the military charters that sustained ATA for many years. We were sorry to see them fold as you could leave IND on a Friday afternoon and be in Florida or the Caribbean in time for dinner.
Also, I once flew a NW 747-SP from LA to Australia. Great airplane!
Thanks for the memories!
i wish i had flown the Lockheed Constellation, the DC-6, DC-7, Caravelle, VC 10 and the Convair 880/990.
The L-1011 remains my favorite large* commercial aircraft. A fantastic bird. Last flew one on ATA between DFW and Cancun in June 2000. Obviously memorable, as I still remember the date. 🙂
(* – Favorite “large”, because you just can’t beat the de Havilland seaplanes that Kenmore flies around Seattle)
I was on the DC10 a few times. I grew up in a Northwest Hub. I took the flight you mentioned to HNL from MSP and enjoyed the experience.
I remember flying UAL to Cleveland from Chicago when I was in college back in the 1960s… and only once was I able to fly the Caravelle! THAT is my favorite, most comfortable flight I have ever been on. In the 40 inute flight, passengers were served a very good meal, quickly distributed from front to back, then as soon as they finshed distribution, the attendants would pick up the remains of the lunch minutes before landing. What a plane! All first class. A great experience, to be sure.
Hi, came across your article while googling something from Flightradar24.
Had to comment on your top 5 ‘wish’ list.
Although petrified of flying, I’ve had no choice many times!
I am obsessed with all things aviation!
My Daughter won us a Mother’s day champagne lunch on Concorde, three months before the awful crash!
I was terrified, but I do know how incredibly blessed I am to have experienced this!
I flew a DC10 in the late 80’s, I remember it well as I had heard they had a bad reputation for crashing ugh!
I also flew on a Tri-Star late 80’s again, just remember being scared as it was so big!!
Not sure if I’ve flown on the other two on your list?
I wish you could have experienced Concorde though, wow!!
All the best for your future trips
I’ve never flown on the Concorde or the L-1011.
I flew on the B-707 NUMEROUS times on American Airlines. In the summer of 1979 I flew AA72 LAX-CLE nonstop on the 707 and my father was the Captain! On that flight I don’t remember exactly what the meal was but I had eight cokes. Also in 1977 my parents took me on holiday to Greece and I flew LHR-ATH and ATH-LHR on Olympic. I had one of the best meals in Economy Class on the LHR-ATH segment.
I flew on the B-747SP on Pan Am in 1978 as my parents took me on holiday to New Zealand. The B-747SP had the longest range back then and it was a big deal to fly an estimated 12 hours 15 minutes LAX-AKL and 11 hours 30 minutes AKL-LAX.
I flew the DC-10 numerous times. I flew both first class and coach on American Airlines. My first DC-10 flight was AA73 CLE-LAX in June 1972 (don’t remember exact date) and I was in first class. In spring of 1975 my parents took me on holiday along with my sister to Acapulco and on the return I flew coach on a DC-10 on the ACA-DFW segment and the configuration was 2-4-2. On 25th May 1979 I flew AA167 ORD-LAX in coach and the configuration was 2-5-2. There was a complimentary meal and there were three choices. I also flew the DC-10 only in coach on Western Airlines in 1974 and 1976. The route was LAX-SEA and in 1974 there was a predeparture beverage of orange juice in coach and the configuration was 2-4-2. Western called their DC-10’s Spaceships.
I wish I could have flown the DC-8, L-1011 and Caravelle. I also would have liked to fly the A-300 and A-310. I almost flew the DC-8. I was in high school and the marching band was invited to march in the Tulip Time Parade in Holland, Michigan on Saturday, 19th May 1979. The original plan was going to be to charter a United Airlines DC-8 from LAX nonstop to GRR which was the closest airport to Holland, Michigan. But a strike by the mechanics grounded UA and scotched those plans. Instead the groups were split up and half the people took a TWA B-707 and the other half took an American Airlines DC-10 both redeyes scheduled to get in within 20 minutes of each other from LAX to ORD then a three hour bus ride to Holland Michigan and the reverse was a the bus ride to ORD and half was to take AA167 (that was me) and the other half was to take AA191 ORD-LAX on Monday 21st May 1979. We all arrived safely. Four days later AA191 crashed on takeoff from ORD killing everyone on board.
We flew the B747-SP (old Pam Am) on United to DownUnder in 1989. First international trip using miles in Business. outbound via HLN to Auckland we were on the upper deck 🙂
BTW at the time I was mayor of Melbourne Iowa, and we met with the Lord Mayor of Melbourne Australia 😉
TOP FIVE: I look forward both to the A350 (I’m jealous: my wife flew a Cathay Pacific A350 HKG-SFO), and the 787 (Covid cancelled our trip). Those are doable. The others, alas, are long gone: Boeing 314 (PanAm clipper seaplanes), Boeing 377 Stratocruiser, the Concorde, and the Lockheed L-749 Constellation. (OK, that’s six…)
FWIW, to the best of my recollection, I’ve flown on the following planes:
Airbus: A319, A320, A321, A330, A340, A380.
Boeing: 707, 717, 727, 737, 747, 757, 767, 777
Bombardier: CRJ-200, CRJ-700, Q300, Q400
British Aerospace/Avro: BAe 146
Douglas: DC-6, -7, -8, -10
Embraer: E-120, -135, -175, -190
Hawker-Sidley: Trident 1C
Lockheed: L-188, L-1011.
McDonald Douglas: MD-80, MD-95
I look forward both to the A350 (jealous: my wife flew a Singapore A350), and the 787 (can’t believe I missed it, but Covid…).
I grew up in the 70s/80s and flew most of these. I loved the L1011, flew on several of BA’s and others. Also DC10s, BAC1-11s, and once on Concorde, a day return trip LHR-JFK which I remember very well (until after my 3rd Blue Label scotch…)
I remember one VC10 flight which was the last VC10 service to Brunei and we did a fly-pass along the runway 100 feet up at 150mph, the captain said.
I’ve flown Tridents, Viscounts, some Comets as well but don’t remember those.
Also many Tu154s, Tu134s, Il86s, Yak42s, Yak40s
It’s a bit before my time but I would have loved to have flown on a Shorts Empire flying boat, and a Boeing Stratocruiser.
And still on my “determined to fly” list are an Antonov 2, the world’s largest biplane and probably the most mass-produced plane with almost 12,000 built; and a Antonov 72 with over-wing engines.