Discover the 9 Oldest Airplanes Still Flying the Skies Today

VINTAGE AIRCRAFT BLERIOT XI - Overflight of a vintage aircraft model Bleriot XI.
© UllrichG/Shutterstock.com

Written by Jennifer Gaeng

Published: September 28, 2023

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In the vast world of aviation, where technological advancements and modern aircraft dominate the skies, there exists a unique group of airplanes that have defied the test of time. These remarkable flying machines, with their rich histories and enduring charm, continue to soar through the heavens, decades after their first flights.

In this article, we invite you to embark on a journey to discover the nine oldest airplanes that are still gracefully navigating the skies today. From their inception to their current roles, each of these aircraft holds a story that intertwines with the evolution of aviation itself.

So, buckle up and prepare to be amazed as we unveil these living legends that stand as a testament to the remarkable engineering and passion for flight that has shaped our world!

An overview of The 9 Oldest Airplanes Still Flying the Skies Today.

1. Bleriot XI: Oldest Plane Still Flying

Historical aircraft Bleriot XI on runway

Historical aircraft Bleriot XI on a runway.

©Jiri Krajicek/Shutterstock.com

Age and Construction:

The Bleriot XI, designed by Raymond Saulnier, was built in 1909, making it one of the earliest aircraft ever constructed. It was a tractor-configuration monoplane with a partially covered box-girder fuselage made from ash with wire cross bracing. The wings used wing warping for lateral control, and the tail surfaces consisted of a small balanced all-moving rudder and a horizontal tailplane with elevator surfaces.

Usage and Significance:

The Bleriot XI holds great historical significance as it was the aircraft that Louis Blériot used to make the first airplane flight across the English Channel on July 25, 1909. This daring feat earned Blériot worldwide fame and marked a significant milestone in aviation history. The Bleriot XI played a crucial role in the early development of aviation and demonstrated the potential of monoplanes for practical flight.

Current Status and Usage:

Today, the Bleriot XI is still airworthy and holds the distinction of being the oldest plane still flying in the world. It is currently located in Hudson Valley, New York. While it is not used for commercial purposes, the aircraft is occasionally flown for special events, airshows, and historical reenactments. It serves as a living testament to the early days of aviation and the pioneering spirit of those who pushed the boundaries of flight.

2. Junkers Ju52: Lufthansa’s Vintage Aircraft

Junkers Ju 52 German trimotor transport airplane

Junkers Ju 52 German trimotor transport airplane

©Joanna Zaleska/Shutterstock.com

Age and Construction:

The Junkers Ju52, also known as “Auntie Ju,” is a German transport aircraft that was first introduced in the 1930s. It was designed and manufactured by Junkers Flugzeugwerk and played a significant role in both civilian and military aviation during its time. The Ju52 was a tri-motor aircraft with a distinctive corrugated metal skin and a high-wing configuration.

Usage and Significance:

The Ju52 was primarily used as a transport aircraft, serving various roles such as passenger transport, cargo transport, and military transport during World War II. It gained a reputation for its reliability, robustness, and versatility. The aircraft was widely used by airlines, including Lufthansa, for domestic and international flights. It also played a crucial role in military operations, serving as a troop transport, paratrooper aircraft, and even as a bomber.

Current Status and Usage:

Lufthansa, the German airline, has preserved and maintained a Ju52 in its fleet of aircraft. While it is no longer used for commercial flights, the aircraft is still operational and can be chartered for pleasure flights. These flights offer aviation enthusiasts and history buffs a unique opportunity to experience flying in a vintage aircraft and relive the golden era of aviation. The Ju52 is based in Dubendorf, Switzerland, and offers scenic flights over the picturesque Swiss landscape.

3. Douglas DC-3: The Iconic Workhorse

Old DC-3 propeller aircraft, beautifully restored and preserved

Old DC-3 propeller aircraft, beautifully restored and preserved.

©Pi-Lens/Shutterstock.com

Age and Introduction:

The Douglas DC-3, also known as the Dakota, made its first flight in 1935. It was designed and manufactured by the Douglas Aircraft Company. The DC-3 quickly gained popularity and became one of the most successful and influential aircraft in aviation history.

Usage and Significance:

The DC-3 played a crucial role in revolutionizing air travel. It was the first aircraft that could fly long distances reliably and economically. The DC-3’s range, payload capacity, and reliability made it ideal for both commercial and military use. During World War II, the DC-3 was extensively used by the military for transport and cargo operations.

Current Status and Usage:

Despite being introduced nearly a century ago, the Douglas DC-3 continues to have a presence in aviation today. While many DC-3s have been retired from commercial service, there are still a significant number of them in operation around the world. These aircraft are primarily used for cargo transport, sightseeing flights, and as historical aircraft.

4. Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress: A Legendary Bomber

B-17 Flying Fortress

B-17 Flying Fortress

©Ivan Cholakov/Shutterstock.com

Age and Introduction:

The Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress made its first flight on July 28, 1935. It was a heavy bomber designed and manufactured by Boeing for the United States Army Air Corps. The B-17 played a significant role during World War II.

Usage and Significance:

The B-17 Flying Fortress was primarily used as a strategic bomber by the Allied forces during World War II. It was known for its ability to carry a large payload of bombs and its long-range capabilities. The B-17 played a crucial role in daylight precision bombing campaigns against Axis targets in Europe.

Current Status and Usage:

While the majority of B-17s have retired from active service, there are a few that have been restored and are still flying today. These aircraft are often used for airshows, historical reenactments, and as flying museums to honor the legacy of the B-17 and educate the public about its historical significance.

5. Supermarine Spitfire: A Legendary British Fighter

Supermarine Spitfire, Farnborough International Airshow, Farnborough Airport, Rushmoor, Hampshire, England

Supermarine Spitfire, Farnborough International Airshow, Farnborough Airport, Rushmoor, Hampshire, England.

©kentaylordesign/Shutterstock.com

Age and Introduction:

The Supermarine Spitfire made its first flight on March 5, 1936. It was a British single-seat fighter aircraft designed by R.J. Mitchell and manufactured by Supermarine Aviation Works. The Spitfire became one of the most iconic and widely recognized aircraft of World War II.

Usage and Significance:

The Spitfire was primarily used by the Royal Air Force (RAF) during World War II. It played a vital role in the defense of Britain during the Battle of Britain, where it engaged in intense aerial combat against the German Luftwaffe. The Spitfire’s agility, speed, and firepower made it a formidable opponent and a symbol of British resilience.

Current Status and Usage:

While the majority of Spitfires are now museum pieces, there are a few that have been restored and are still flying today. These aircraft are often seen at airshows, commemorative events, and special flypasts. They serve as a tribute to the bravery of the pilots who flew them and a reminder of the Spitfire’s historical significance.

6. Piper J-3 Cub: A Small and Versatile Aircraft

Piper Cub glider tow plane with rope connected

Piper Cub glider tow plane with a rope connected.

©Margo Harrison/Shutterstock.com

Age and Introduction:

The Piper J-3 Cub was first introduced in 1937 by the Piper Aircraft Corporation. It is a small, light aircraft that gained popularity for its simplicity and affordability. The J-3 Cub quickly became a favorite among pilots and aviation enthusiasts.

Usage and Significance:

During World War II, the J-3 Cub was used by the military for various purposes. It served as a liaison aircraft, performing tasks such as artillery spotting, forward air control, and reconnaissance. The aircraft’s slow flight characteristics and short takeoff and landing capabilities made it well-suited for these roles.

Recreational Flying and Flight Training:

Today, the Piper J-3 Cub is primarily used for recreational flying and flight training. Many aviation enthusiasts and private pilots enjoy flying the J-3 Cub for its nostalgic charm and simplicity. The aircraft’s low operating costs and ease of maintenance make it an attractive option for those seeking a fun and affordable flying experience.

Current Status and Usage:

The Piper J-3 Cub is still in use today, primarily for recreational flying and flight training purposes. Many aviation enthusiasts and private pilots enjoy flying the J-3 Cub for its nostalgic charm and simplicity. It is often used for flight training, particularly for student pilots learning the basics of flying.

Oldest Commercial Airplanes

7. Air Inuit Boeing 737: A Reliable Workhorse

Air Inuit Boeing 737

Air Inuit Boeing 737-200

©BriYYZ / CC BY-SA 2.0 – Original / License

Age and Introduction:

The Air Inuit Boeing 737 was first put into service in 1979, making it over four decades old. It is a workhorse aircraft that has served Air Inuit, a small Canadian airline, for many years.

Usage and Significance:

The Boeing 737 is a versatile and widely used aircraft known for its reliability and efficiency. Air Inuit’s use of the Boeing 737 demonstrates its suitability for operating in remote locations and challenging environments.

Ongoing Operation and Updates:

Despite its age, the Air Inuit Boeing 737 is still in operation today. The aircraft has undergone numerous updates and modifications over the years to ensure its continued airworthiness and compliance with safety regulations.

8. Venezolana Boeing 737: A Historic Aircraft in Venezuelan Skies

Venezolana Boeing 737

Venezolana Boeing 737

©aeroprints.com / CC BY-SA 3.0 – Original / License

Age and Introduction:

The Venezolana Boeing 737 is one of the oldest planes still flying in commercial service. It was first used in 1978, making it over four decades old. Despite its age, this aircraft continues to operate under the banner of Venezolana, an airline based in Venezuela.

Usage and Significance:

The Boeing 737 is a widely used and versatile aircraft known for its reliability and efficiency. The Venezolana Boeing 737 plays a significant role in the airline’s operations, connecting passengers within Venezuela and potentially to international destinations.

Ongoing Operation and Maintenance:

Despite being one of the oldest planes in commercial service, the Venezolana Boeing 737 is still in operation today. It is a testament to the aircraft’s durability and the airline’s commitment to proper maintenance and safety standards.

9. Nolinor Aviation Boeing 737: A Reliable Charter Aircraft in Canada

Nolinor Aviation, C-GNLN, Boeing 737-2B6C(A)

The Nolinor Aviation Boeing 737-2B6C(A)

©Anna Zvereva / CC BY-SA 2.0 – Original / License

Age and Introduction:

The Nolinor Aviation Boeing 737 has been in service since 1976, making it over four decades old. Nolinor Aviation, a charter airline based in Canada, operates this aircraft.

Usage and Significance:

The Boeing 737 is a versatile and widely used aircraft known for its reliability and efficiency. Nolinor Aviation utilizes the Boeing 737 for charter flights, serving various destinations based on their specific requirements.

Ongoing Operation and Maintenance:

Despite its age, the Nolinor Aviation Boeing 737 has been updated and maintained over the years, allowing it to continue flying like newer planes. The airline ensures that the aircraft meets safety and maintenance standards to ensure its airworthiness.

Charter Services:

The Nolinor Aviation Boeing 737 is primarily used for charter services. As a charter airline, Nolinor Aviation caters to specific flight requirements, providing customized travel solutions for various clients.

In Conclusion

As we conclude our exploration of the nine oldest airplanes still gracing the skies today, we are left in awe of the incredible resilience and enduring legacy these aircraft possess. From their pioneering days to their continued presence in the modern era, these flying relics serve as a testament to the indomitable spirit of aviation. Each flight they undertake is a celebration of their timeless design, their historical significance, and the unwavering dedication of those who have worked tirelessly to preserve them.

Please note, the aircrafts mentioned in this article are just a few examples of the oldest airplanes still flying today. There are many other vintage and historical aircraft that have been preserved and are occasionally flown for various purposes, including pleasure flights, airshows, and historical reenactments.

Summary of 9 Oldest Airplanes Still Flying the Skies Today

AirplaneBuilder/DesignerLocationDate Invented
1.Bleriot XIRaymond SaulnierFrance1909
2.Junkers Ju52Junkers FlugzeugwerkGermany1930s
3.Douglas DC-3Douglas Aircraft CompanyUnited States1935
4.Boeing B-17 Flying FortressUnited States Army Air CorpsUnited States1935
5.Supermarine SpitfireSupermarine Aviation WorksGreat Britain1936
6.Piper J-3 CubPiper Aircraft CorporationUnited States1937
7.Air Inuit Boeing 737Air InuitCanada1979
8.Venezolana Boeing 737VenezolanaVenezuela1978
9.Nolinor Aviation Boeing 737Nolinor AviationCanada1976


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About the Author

Jennifer Gaeng is a writer at A-Z-Animals focused on animals, lakes, and fishing. With over 15 years of collective experience in writing and researching, Jennifer has honed her skills in various niches, including nature, animals, family care, and self-care. Hailing from Missouri, Jennifer finds inspiration in spending quality time with her loved ones. Her creative spirit extends beyond her writing endeavors, as she finds joy in the art of drawing and immersing herself in the beauty of nature.

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