How to Find out the Age of Your Plane

Jun 29, 2019

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What’s one thing that humans, animals, food and, yes, even planes have in common? We all have a lifespan. As humans, we retire of our own accord when we get old, whereas ageing aircraft get forced into retirement. Surprisingly though, flying on an old plane does not mean that your safety is compromised — the safety and airworthiness of a plane depends predominantly on the level of care that an airline takes of the maintenance of its aircraft.

So why does it matter? Well, older planes are often less environmentally friendly and can be more costly to an airline. In terms of passenger comfort, flying an old aircraft can leave your skin dryer and increase the effects of jet lag. Seating and in-flight entertainment are often more outdated, meaning your journey might not be as comfortable as if you were flying a newer, more modern aircraft like the Airbus A350 and the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

So, how do you check how old your plane is? FlightRadar24 is everything you need for all kinds of AvGeekery, including checking out the exact age of your plane. You’ll need to subscribe to at least the Silver membership level in order to use the tool to see how old your plane is.

Let’s use the route of London to New York as an example and the different aircraft and airlines that operate between the cities’ airports. This is a great example of where you can decide on which aircraft you want to fly.

Using Google Flights, you can see that on this given day, United’s flight UA883 between London Heathrow (LHR) and New York’s Newark (EWR) is operated by a Boeing 767, which are generally older aircraft.

By inputting the flight number into FlightRadar24, we can see that this is always the aircraft that the airline operates on the route.

And finally, if we pick one UA883 flight at random, you can see that the plane that operated that route is 19 years old.

Virgin Atlantic operates a number of aircraft from London to New York, including A330s, A340-600s and 787s. On this particular day, VS9 is operated by a Boeing 787 Dreamliner — one of the newest and most modern aircraft in the sky.

Unlike with the United example, we can see that this flight number is not always operated by the same aircraft.

British Airways usually operates flights from London to New York on its older 747 and 777 aircraft.

You can usually count on British Airways for using the same aircraft on the same flight number.

The youngest of the airline’s 747 fleet is around 20 years old.

The oldest British Airways 747 currently in service is G-BNLY, which was recently repainted in the old school Landor livery as part of the airline’s 100-year celebrations.

If you want to have a better chance of flying one of British Airways newest aircraft, then BA189 from London (LHR) to New York Newark (EWR) is often operated by the 787 Dreamliner.

Even if you’ve done your research and you’ve picked a certain route and flight number to be able to fly a certain aircraft, thanks to the nature of the aviation industry, there can be last-minute changes due to delays and other scheduling issues. So, your fancy new A350 could get switched out for an older 777 at the last minute and you would be none the wiser.

If you really get into knowing how old a plane is, you can also input the registration of the aircraft straight into FlightRadar24 — or even into Google — which is great for when you’re relaxing at the airport or taxiing to the runway and can get a good view of planes up close and personal.

Featured photo by Ryan Patterson.

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