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What Are The Oldest Operating Commercial Aircraft?

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Commercial jet flight as we know it today has been around for almost 50 years. That is an amazing span of time across which many new technologies, aircraft, and even planemakers have arisen and made their names in the market– though some of them are no longer flying. (simpleflying.com) Altro...

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jagerardi
jagerardi 9
There are still quite a few Goonies still flying commercially and they came on the scene in 1936. As this article didn't specify jets, I think the DC-3 wins.

..Joe
ImperialEagle
ImperialEagle 3
Yeah, that's what I was thinking. Somewhere a -3 is still at work.
djames225
djames225 5
Northern Canada for 1...Buffalo Airways
withersfamily
Lee Withers 5
Correction: First commercial 707 flight 1958
kevinkeswick
Kevin Keswick 3
Yep I agree. The author must be young. He says "Commercial jet flight as we know it today has been around for almost 50 years" Of course Commercial Jet flight as we know it has been around for over 60 years. I don't think the experience of flying on a 707 was that much different then flying on a modern 737. I never got to fly on a 707 but I did get to fly on a DC8 (Air Canada Super 60) from the same era and the jet experience was much the same as today - minus the cigarette smoke of course.
laurilipponen
Lauri Lipponen 1
As I recall, the 737 was basically a downsized 707 design.
ksbadger
John Clarke 1
The 737 used the same fuselage barrel & cockpit as the 707/720 and 727. The 727 needed three engines to reliably get out of La Guardia (Engine Out Case)but the 737 had no such requirement. A lot of its Design Team were non-citizens & other engineers Boeing wanted to keep through the huge cuts associated with stopping the 2707 SST program - "We'll move you that little program down in Renton". The head of Avionics/Electrical Design on the 767, a Canadian, was one such.
wopri
Wolfgang Prigge 6
As far as I know the Air Inuit 737s are equipped for landing on gravel strips, making their longevity even more remarkable.
djames225
djames225 4
The 2 oldest, from Nolinor, also have that capability. Plus they are combi's
kevinkeswick
Kevin Keswick 2
That is the reason why they are still in service. No other passenger jet has the capability to land on gravel strips. The newer 737's with low slung engines cannot be retrofitted for this capability. On a side note the Air Inuit livery is beautiful
bingobanner
Russ Brown 1
Were 727s used on coral strips on the island hopper route from Hawaii to Guam?
jimwallsf
James Wall 3
Flew an Air Mic 727 combi HON to Truk and back, 727 with cargo front/passengers in rear with access through rear stairs, humongous oversized landing gears. Had pilot, co-pilot (maybe navigator too, cannot recall) and very oddly, a mechanic. We needed the mechanic due to the strip at Phonpei being under repair and the aircraft making a hard landing causing O2 masks to pop and seals in the rear center engine to fail. Mechanic reviewed, did god-knows-what, declared good to go. On lift off an extra very loud bang. Pilot came on and announced the center rear engine had failed. Good news: we were OK. Bad news: Nearest crash facility was HON and we could not make it. US Military on Majuro took pity and allowed us permission to land there as it was an emergency and they had crash facilities. A bit comforting/disconcerting was when we came through on the outbound leg there was a C-130 (we were told, hard to tell from little pieces) spread out in little pieces between the two main runways. We landed safely, military allowed us off the plane to await a replacement plane from HON the next day. Also allowed a one minute phone call home in Connecticut. Message to wife's secretary (secretary's first day): "Hi, airplane crashed, OK, be home in a couple days." (OK, it was a considerable overstatement. My lame excuse was brevity due to time limit.). When the secretary told my wife, her response was, "yeah, OK, thanks" Secretary asked if this happened a lot. Yes, we are still happily married.
bingobanner
Russ Brown 1
Hi Jim: Flew on Continental (Air Mic) hopper to Ponape 11/15/78. Pilot did a low pass to make sure nobody had left anything - pick up, canoe etc- on the runway. Three in the cockpit plus mechanic. Compressor failures were really loud if you were in the last row window seat on a 727. Followed by a total anxious silence on the part of passengers. .
jimwallsf
James Wall 1
We had probably the same flight crew composition (3+1) plus a priest on the return leg. The Continental/Air Micronesia flight I was on was May 23, 1987, #956 TKK 1405-0430 on 24th in HON. The priest was not part of the flight crew, but needed.

The Phonpei (think that is the same as Ponape, they have been changing names around, like Truk is now Chuuk) runway at one end was being rebuilt so the runway was shorter. That made for a carrier-type landing and takeoff, minus the catapult of course. The Catholic priest's had been in Truck for something like 15 years and was making a trip to NYC for some church event recognizing his service. The local CAT team (some sort of US military SeaBee type group; lots of young guys with an appreciation of drink) give him a really good sendoff with lots of liquid spirit and he was very hung over by the time they poured him onto the plane. When the O2 masks popped he was one startled guy -- as were the rest of us dodging the stuff in the overhead bins as there were no bin doors then; just open. He gave some blessings (not religious, but no atheists in foxholes under fire) that went over very well, particularly with the islanders.
bingobanner
Russ Brown 2
When I was on Truck in 78, the Island had gone dry. There had been a lot of Machete fights after watching Kung Fu movies and the wives voted out the sale of alcohol. The flight to Guam was sold out and as soon as we were off the ground the beverage service was non-stop. Imagine the return trip was the same way.

In 78 they were called definitely SeaBees. Our only source of beer while we were there. Bless 'em! They were a tough bunch; trying to build road with worn out surplus equipment from Vietnam.
jimwallsf
James Wall 2
By 1987 the main street going down to the Holiday Inn appeared to have been paved with crushed beer cans. A novel sight at the time. Not to be outdone, here in San Francisco we have poo paved sidewalks. Did you get to go scuba diving? Not sure if there are other non-WWII related reasons to go there. Incidentally, did you know Moen Island was the practice target for the Tibbets group when they were using "pumpkin" bombs? Explains some of the huge craters there.
bingobanner
Russ Brown 1
Great diving for my crew, but I was not certified so snorkel for me. Even then great.
Didn't know about Moen.

Looking at Google views, sure is different -oh well, forty years+, I'm different too - can't believe Iwo Jima and Guadacanal.


;san
jimwallsf
James Wall 1
Sorry, Kwajalein, not Majuro. Big difference.
yr2012
matt jensen 1
We know, we still fly on them
NF2G
David Stark -1
737s have always had low slung engines. They used to be smaller.
sparkie624
sparkie624 2
and I think much better.... the older 100's and 200's had an option kit for unimproved runways (Gravel) - You will never see a CFM Engine hanging under a wing approved for that. In many ways, I like the older birds more than the newer ones... Also the older 100's, 200's, and 727's were much healthier, because they recirculated the air much more often.
marston620
Marston Davis 2
Is Western Airways still using the Wright Flyer...just asking.
JeffBeeton
Jeff Beeton 2
I flew on an Air Florida DC-3 from Savannah , GA to ATL in 1988. 16 passengers aboard. I recall walking uphill in the aisle on the ramp because of course, it was a taildragger. In flight I asked the FA why we were flying so low 7,000. She said the aircraft does not have a pressurized cabin. I do not recall the flight duration, but I was happy to have had a chance to be a passenger on an airplane that made commercial flying possible and successful.
kptnsky
mikey mikey 2
"Commercial jet flight as we know it today has been around for almost 50 years..."

I flew on a 720-B and 727 in 1966 - that's more than 50 years, not "almost" 50 years.
Boeing's 707 flew paying passengers in 1958 - an accurate headline might read "... has been around for more than 60 years."
kptnsky
mikey mikey 4
and dear G-d, who wrote that sh*t...
"The Boeing 757 has been in operation since the late-1980s"

No, it first flew in the EARLY 1980s, entering service at the same time as the 767, i.e. around '82-'83.

Apparently the author relies on his memory of the period - which, as his photo makes him appear to be about 25 years old, would not exist.
withersfamily
Lee Withers 2
Commercial jet airplanes started out over 60 years ago. The 707 started US flights in 1957.
RetiredCaptain
Jasper Buck 1
Make that 70 years ago.
kevinkeswick
Kevin Keswick 1
True! The FIRST passenger jet built in North America was the Canadian built Avro C102 "Jetliner" which first flew in 1949!(as with the AVRO Arrow Canada was way ahead of the U.S. in development of a passenger jet!) The Avro C102 coined the term "Jetliner" which has been applied to every passenger jet since then. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avro_Canada_C102_Jetliner
djames225
djames225 1
Unfortunately that stupid Comet beat it out the gate by days, and dang thing was never produced. I am betting there would still be models of it flying to this day, as I do not think it's fuselage, wings etc would fail like the Comet's did.
NF2G
David Stark 0
I was born in 1957 and I am not 70 years old.
sparkie624
sparkie624 1
Actually, the British De Havilland Comet - On July 27, 1949, the world's first revenue airliner, the British De Havilland Comet, makes its maiden test-flight in England and entered service in 1952, beating the 707
JeffBeeton
Jeff Beeton 1
Wasn’t there an issue with wing spars that caused two early Comets to crash ?
sparkie624
sparkie624 0
I know there were 2 early crash's , however the first was because of explosive decompression that was due to the Cabin Window design of the Cabin Windows actually have Square and not round edges which caused stress....

However soon after crashes were not due to Wing Spars, but Spars in the Horizontal Stabilizers... Which is actually more critical than a wing spar!
sparkie624
sparkie624 -1
BTW, Note: https://www.baesystems.com/en/heritage/de-havilland-comet-1---2 image... The Square Windows actually caused stress and blew out, which BTW, is the reason that cabin windows are shaped the way they are today... It is no accident that they all look almost identical on airliners!
ksbadger
John Clarke 1
I think you'll find the actual cabin failure in the one crash that could be verified was in a GFRP ADF Antenna installation at the top of the fuselage.
http://aerossurance.com/safety-management/comet-misconceptions/
AABABY
AABABY 1
My guess would be the DC-3. They're still doing the job since the 1930's in remote areas.
Not jet powered but,that wasn't in the question.
cm2ok
Mike Klein 1
Right on sparkie - let's not forget the piper cherokee wing spar AD!
sparkie624
sparkie624 1
If you want to go Wing Spars.... Take a look at the Lockheed Electra that had to be speed restricted to keep from cracking the Wing Spars and parts of the Fuselage!
sparkie624
sparkie624 1
Which BTW, is a very old Airliner from 1957, and was the fastest airliner of the time with props!
AABABY
AABABY 0
The Electra had a design defect. The engines were angled down about 18 degrees. Which caused severe stress on the wings. There was a project to fix them called "operation tilt up"
Too late to save the 188.
Nobody wanted to be on one.
tjnighthawk
tjnighthawk 0
For an excellent analysis of the L-188 losses read Robert J Serlings books: "Loud & Clear" (which was a compilation of stories looking at the commercial aviation incidents after the transition to the jet age) and or "The Electra Story". The source of the structural design shortcomings was the pylon design not the wing spar. Really good analysis of "propeller whirl flutter" and related "pylon whirl mode" runaway following suspected hard landing/ high g-loading which weakened structural elements in the flexible pylon mount.

Loved the airplane and it was my first jet-powered flight on AAL the summer of 1959 before the Braniff and Northwest accidents which forced the speed reduction which were later lifted after operators accomplished the LEAP mods.
phurford
Paul Hurford 1
Here is some more information on "The Electra Story."

Loud and Clear was a great book. A more complete story for the L-188 is titled, "The Electra Story," by Robert J. Serling (Rod Serling's brother) It was published by Doubleday in 1963 - Library of Congress Card Number: 63-7715. There are 154 pages & Illustrations of all the components that had to be replaced. The book only talks about the Electra failures, and also includes all the then current Airlines who pitched in to assist Lockheed to find the cause of the crashes of Braniff Flt: 542 and Northwest Flt:710. This book is very comprehensive if you can find a copy. I have seen a few available on ebay, and other web sites.
Ratorres
Ralph Torres 1
In the early 80s flew on a Sud Aviation SE 210 Caravelle in Ecuador. Just a curtain between cockpit and cabin. The instrument panel had holes where some gauges should've been. Night flight thru a thunderstorm into Quito - my scariest flight ever.
MikePetro
Mike Petro 2
This takes me back to when my wife and I flew from South Florida to Abaco in the Bahamas in the early 80's. Small aircraft, no separation at all between the cockpit and cabin. We're sitting on the plane waiting for the pilot, several instruments labeled inoperative. The pilot enters the plane through the window, not bothering with the door and says "hello, welcome! here's the safety briefing: If anything bad happens, just follow me because I'll be the first one out".

Once we got airborne and on the way, I felt OK, but on approach for landing at Marsh Harbour Int'l Airport, we flew over one plane wreck in the water and then saw another wreck shoved to the side off the runway. The terminal was a very small wood frame building. What an experience!
ksbadger
John Clarke 1
If the definition of Commercial Jet flight is stretched a little, one of the earliest - but still flying & immaculate - is Clay Lacey's Learjet 23/24.
Was lucky enough to see it - and its incredible interior with its full portraits of other Learjet customers - at the 50th Anniversary. When I was peering through the cabin windows, Clay himself opened her up so I could see & photograph them clearly.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BVapjLaSyrY
Colinfiber
George Reeve 1
Sorry its more than 50 years. I flew on a VC10 from London Heathrow to Montreal (Dorval) on 11 Appril 1967.
dgh1
Douglas Hudson 1
The British De Havilland Comet made it's first test flight in 1949 and it's first commercial flight sporting BOAC colors (colours) on May 2nd, 1952. Too bad it had fatal problems and was short lived, but that's what can happen when you are the leader of the pack.
djames225
djames225 1
I have a feeling they saw Avro Canada's jet and sped through the process to beat them by mere days. It's too bad too. Im sure the C102 would have been great.
phurford
Paul Hurford 1
Yep - The DC-3 is still the top contendor for still flying commercial passengers. But there is also the Lockheed L-188 Electra. That's a sweet, comfy aircraft that is in commercial service - passenger and cargo. There are quite a few still flying.
gdamk
Gary Damkoehler 1
My wife and I plus 3 kids flew from New Delhi to Kathmandu in 1966 on a DC3 with a manufacture date of 1936 on the forward bulkhead.
nanypopi1
Freal Stukey 1
I flew DC 3s as a flight attendant with Allegheny Airlines during the mid 1950 s. Up to 21 seats mostly occupied by business men hopping between intermediate cities in the NE. Very safe craft, only hampered now and then by weather delays.
GeorgiaUGA83
Michael Murray 1
Any Convair 880s out there?
amentor
a mentor 1
guess too many are too young to know or care about non-jet commercial aircraft like th DC-3. First flight 1936 and many are STILL in commerical service in the Caribbean and South America. Last trip to Porta Rico we saw 6-8 DC-3s lined up on the ramp.
djames225
djames225 1
I believe the article was about commercial jet flight.
No need to go to South America or Caribbean. Buffalo Airways flies four DC-3's, two C-46 Curtis Commandos, four L-188 Lockheed Electra's. Along with the smathering of others, 2 private are a 1947 Noorduyn Norseman, and a 1941 N3N-3
amentor
a mentor 2
The article title was COMMERCIAAL aircraft -- and yes the description was jet flight.
WisconsinFlyer
WisconsinFlyer 1
Does turboprop count? Lots of DC-3 conversions out of Oshkosh. Those are some sweet aircraft.
MikePetro
Mike Petro 1
Too many people don't know that turboprops are gas turbine powered engines, just like turbojets and turbofans.
djames225
djames225 1
Unfortunately FlightAware doe not have edit function. The title was edited.
AABABY
AABABY 1
Where does it say "Jet" in the title?
What Are The Oldest Operating Commercial Aircraft?
withersfamily
Lee Withers 1
You can see them on “Ice Pilots” on the Weather channel.
djames225
djames225 1
Also watch Mikey McBryan's Plane Savers on Youtube.
craigbell1941
craigbell1941 1
Tired of all the "Gotchas". Most of the comments seem to be one upping someone. Roger and out.
sho69607
Spencer Hoefer 1
Those Atlas Air pax 747's get parked in the desert when they aren't being used. Perhaps they don't have as many cycles on them as other aircraft that age.
sparkie624
sparkie624 0
WOW... Those are some old birds... Almost 50 years for some and still active... Scary
RetiredCaptain
Jasper Buck 3
Why "scary"?
sparkie624
sparkie624 1
Aging Aircraft....
RetiredCaptain
Jasper Buck 2
What's wrong with an "aging aircraft"? You are, I assume, familiar with the FAA's regulations and Advisory materials that pertain to the subject of determining the continued airworthiness of aging aircraft structures. If not you can read the thousands of pages of rules and advisory materials located here:

https://www.faa.gov/aircraft/air_cert/design_approvals/transport/Aging_Aircraft/.

Nothing wrong with an "aging aircraft" provided that the owner/operator has maintained the aircraft IAW all the FAA's rules and guidance materials.

Best

Capt J Buck

ATP DC-9 B757 B767
Flight Instructor
Ground Instructor
Aircraft Dispatcher
A&P Mechanic
Air Traffic Controller
FAA Aviation Safety Inspector (Ret.)
FAA certified accident investigator (Ret.)
ICAO Panel Member
sparkie624
sparkie624 1
No.. I am an Airline Mechanic... There are things that are hard to find on aircraft which is why there are different levels of NDT (Non-Destructive Testing). One big issue is Differential Metals Corrosion (Ref Aloha Airlines Flight 243 ) where they lost their top... Crash was 100% preventable if they had known to look for this kind of damage... Though my years of maintenance I have seen lots cracks in old Fuselages.... This comes under Aging A/C program... But even with out great technology for detecting these cracks and other damage that are not visible to the naked eye things still get missed... Keep in mind that SWA got in trouble a number of years ago because they misread the AD and was not doing NDT on all of their aircraft correctly.
djames225
djames225 3
Nothing scary at all with the 2nd oldest bird. It spent almost 21,000 hrs in the shop back in 2018 before getting put to work. Most of their birds are the same way.
The reason the old units...they can be used on gravel strips with a few simple additions.
RetiredCaptain
Jasper Buck 1
You must be referring to Airworthiness Directive (AD) 2004-18-06. Yes, I remember that. SWA and the FAA both were complicit in that situation. I know of at least 2 FAA aviation safety inspectors that were moved off the SWA certificate because of that. Not sure if SWA ever paid the proposed civil penalty. I don't think it involved all their 737s but still they overflew the time limitations and missed some of the inspection elements in the AD.

That said, the aging aircraft program, if managed correctly following the heretofore mentioned FAA directives and regulations, does keep the subject aircraft in compliance with their type certificates and airworthiness requirements.

You said "No..I am an Airline Mechanic... " I'm not sure what that means. The FAA does not certificate "airline mechanics." It certificates Mechanics (IAW FAR Part 65) who hold either a Powerplant rating or Airframe rating or both. The FAA also issues Repairman certificates under the same regulation. Which are you?

Best
sparkie624
sparkie624 1
"complicit" is a nice understatement.. But yes they were Very Complicit!
withersfamily
Lee Withers 0
What commercial jets were flying 70 years ago? Germany had a jet fighter at the end of WWII and we had jet fighters during the Korean War. The English had a commercial plane, the DeHavalin Comet, before the 707 but the wings wanted to fall so they didn’t last for long. Looking it up the Comet did start in 1952, but they were a sad and tragic story.
yr2012
matt jensen 3
But they're not flying now
RetiredCaptain
Jasper Buck 1
There may be one or two still flyable. Airbus rebuilt one and flew it in 2016. Not sure if it's parked in a museum or still used for demos. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZPfqtQgRlVg

Best
anav8r
Martie Williams 1
The wings didn't fall off. The fuselage ripped apart.
Wait... Yeah, I guess the wings WOULD fall off then...
kevinkeswick
Kevin Keswick 0
The Canadian built Avro C102 Jetliner (first passenger jet built in North America) first flew in 1949! It coined the term "Jetliner" to describe Jet travel. A term still in use today! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avro_Canada_C102_Jetliner
RetiredCaptain
Jasper Buck -2
Like you said, the Comet. First flew in 1949. That's 71 years ago best I can figure. Actual passenger carrying operations didn't begin until 1952 (almost 69 years ago) when BOAC started service. The first Comets were as problem but the Comet 2 and the redesigned Comet 4 series debuted in 1958 and remained in commercial service until 1981. Sad and tragic perhaps but no more so than some other airplane design failures. The Concorde, Lockheed Electra and 737 max come to mind.

As an aside I would take some issue with your statement that "Germany had a jet fighter at the end of WWII" The ME 262 (the jet powered version) went operational in July 1942. I don't consider mid-1942 as being "at the end of the war.)More like the middle.

Best

Capt J Buck

ATP DC-9 B757 B767
Flight Instructor
Ground Instructor
Aircraft Dispatcher
A&P Mechanic
Air Traffic Controller
FAA Aviation Safety Inspector (Ret.)
FAA certified accident investigator (Ret.)
ICAO Panel Member


bcanderson
Brian Anderson 1
There was a Comet IV that sat at O'hare for years. A guy named Dick Drost owned it and used it as a shuttle down to 'Naked City' somewhere in Indiana. They operated out of the original Terminal 1 (Butler Aviation).

I guess the Feds finally said "No, don't do that no more".

When Chicago and United built the new Terminal 1 it went away - who knows where...
withersfamily
Lee Withers 1
From what I read it didn’ become operational until mid 1944.
yr2012
matt jensen 3
It doesn't make any difference - IT'S NOT FLYING NOW
craiglgood
Craig Good 0
"Commercial" is a kind of operation, not a kind of aircraft. And why he limits it to jets is beyond me. There are DC-3 aircraft still operating commercially, FFS.
RetiredCaptain
Jasper Buck 1
Thanks for pointing that out. FAR 1.1 defines "Commercial Operator" as "...a person who, for compensation or hire, engages in the carriage by aircraft in air commerce of persons or property, other than as an air carrier or foreign air carrier or under the authority of Part 375 of this title. Where it is doubtful that an operation is for “compensation or hire”, the test applied is whether the carriage by air is merely incidental to the person's other business or is, in itself, a major enterprise for profit." Most any aircraft can be used in "commercial operations."
sparkie624
sparkie624 1
There are a lot of very old single aircraft still working around the world as well. Alaska, South America, Africa! and many flying off of dirt strips or roads!

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