For any hobby, there is always the rare example that everyone wants to witness with their own eyes. For car lovers, it’s the classic Ferrari racecars or original American sports cars from the 1950’s. For us aviation enthusiasts, we share the same problem: finding the elusive rare aircraft before they go extinct.
I will try in this article to highlight where you can find some of the world’s rarest planes, whether it’s a massive 747 or a small prop, you will be able to refer to this article whenever you are feeling curious, and want to go out and snag some shots of a rare aircraft.
Avior Airlines (Venezuela): 5 examples in service, primarily used in domestic Venezuela flights from Barcelona General Jose Antonio Anzoátegui International Airport in Barcelona, Venezuela. You can occasionally find an example flying from Barcelona to Miami, the airlines’ only American destination.
RUTACA Airlines (Venezuela): 8 examples in service, primarily used in domestic Venezuela flights from Ciudad Bolivar Tomás de Heres Airport in Ciudad Bolívar, Venezuela. They fly regularly to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, but that is the closest they come to the United States.
Venezolana (Venezuela): 2 examples in service, primarily used in domestic Venezuela flights from La Chinita International Airport in Maracaibo, Venezuela. The airline flies the 737-200 to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic on occasion, but that is the closest you can find one to the United States.
Canadian North (Canada): 12 examples in service, primarily used for charter flights in Northern Canada from Yellowknife Airport and Edmonton Airport. The airline flies these examples to Miami and Palm Beach regularly in the United States, as well as a slew of Canadian airports that have direct flights from the U.S.
Air Inuit (Canada): 2 examples in service, exclusively used in flights between small communities in Nunavut, Canada. Kuujjuaj Airport is the airlines primary hub, and this is your best opportunity to snag some shots of these classic birds.
Nolinor Aviation (Canada): 6 examples in service, used in passenger flights between Montreal and other remote Quebec communities such as Val-d’Or and Waterloo. Occasionally, these aircraft make charter flights to the United States.
Aerosucre (Colombia): 1 example in service, used for cargo flights from El Dorado International Airport in Bogotá, Colombia. You can only find these aircraft operating in Latin America, as far north as Panama City, Santo Domingo, and Havana.
Nasair (Eritrea): 1 example in service, used in passenger flights between Asmara International Airport in Asmara, Eritrea and Nairobi, Khartoum, Juba, Entebbe, Dubai, Dammam, and Jeddah. Your best chance of seeing one is at Dubai International Airport, which has numerous daily flights to the United States.
Xpressair (Indonesia): 2 examples in service, used in inter-island flights in Indonesia from the airlines’ base at Sultan Hasanuddin International Airport in Makassar, Indonesia to cities such as Padang, Surabaya, Malacca, and Ambon. The airline does not fly to Jakarta or Singapore, however, meaning you will need to go to remote areas to find these aircraft in service.
Republicair (Mexico): 2 examples in service, operates passenger flights from Toluca International Airport in Toluca, Mexico. The airline has had many recent disputes with the Mexican government due to safety worries, but you will likely find some examples on the ground at Toluca.
As you can tell, you will have to go pretty deep into some third-world countries if you really want to find some frames, but it is easiest to make the trip to Canada to check out some of the aircraft in service just south of the North Pole.
Ariana Afghan Airlines (Afghanistan): 2 examples in service, operates scheduled domestic Afghanistan flights from the airlines’ hub at Kabul International Airport in Kabul. Occasionally, you can find these jets operating flights to China, India, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Russia, or Kuwait, among others.
ASL Airlines Belgium (Belgium): 14 examples in service, operate cargo flights from Liege Airport to many cities in Europe, notably cities in the United Kingdom such as London, East Midlands, Birmingham, and Manchester. These aircraft operate in TNT Airlines paint.
Flair Airlines (Canada): 5 examples in service, operate charter flights from many British Columbian airports, but the aircraft are based at Kelowna Airport. These aircraft operate charters for sports teams, wholesalers, convention organizers, and other clients often to cities in the United States.
SF Airlines (China): 3 examples in service, operating from Bao’an Airport in Shenzhen, where the airlines’ headquarters are. The airline flies cargo flights to many Chinese cities, but mostly short, busy runs to cities in the Guangdong province.
Mistral Air (Italy): 2 examples in service, operating charter flights from Rome-Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport to other domestic Italian cities such as Milan, Bologna, Venice, Naples, Napoli, Catania, and Pisa, among others.
Japanese Transocean Air (Japan): 6 examples in service, operate domestic Japan flights from the airlines’ hub at Naha Airport. Other major points of action for the airline are Ishigaki Airport, Fukuoka Airport, Matsuyama Airport, and Kansai International Airport.
Comair (South Africa): 10 examples in service, operate domestic South Africa flights from OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg as a British Airways franchisee. Focus cities include Cape Town International Airport and King Shaka International Airport.
Alaska Airlines (United States): 29 examples in service, operate many scheduled flights from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and Anchorage International Airport. You can find these aircraft at just about any West Coast-US major airport Alaska serves.
Bahamasair (Bahamas): 3 examples in service, operate solely from Lynden Pindling International Airport in Nassau, The Bahamas to destinations in the Caribbean and United States, such as Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Orlando, and Tampa.
Belavia (Belarus): 5 examples in service, operate from Minsk National Airport in Minsk, Belarus to leisure destinations in Soviet Europe in countries like Croatia, Estonia, Ukraine, Moldova, Serbia, and Bosnia & Herzegovina.
Sriwijaya Air (Indonesia): 7 examples in service, operate to dozens of domestic Indonesian cities from the airlines’ primary hub at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Jakarta. The airline operates these classics in a very safe manner, earning the coveted 5-star safety rating from Skytrax.
ANA Wings (Japan): 19 examples in service, operate regional Japan flights under owner All Nippon Airlines, from Nagoya-Chubu Centrair International Airport, Tokyo-Narita International Airport, New Chitose Airport, and Kansai International Airport.
Aero Contractors (Nigeria): 2 examples in service, operate intra-Africa flights to multiple destinations from Murtala Muhammed Airport to Accra, Abuja, Lagos, and more. These flights primarily are used by oil workers working in the extensive Nigeria oil & gas industry.
UTair Aviation (Russia): 32 examples in service, operating many daily flights between a wealth of Russian cities, primarily the airlines’ hub airport at Vnukovo International Airport in Moscow. UTAir owns the largest fleet of 737-500 aircraft in the world.
Ukraine International Airlines (Ukraine): 4 examples in service, operate many flights across Europe from the airlines’ hub at Kiev-Boryspil International Airport. Destinations include Yerevan, Baku, Minsk, Frankfurt, Zurich, Almaty, and Tenerife, among others.
Air Algerie (Algeria): 5 examples in service, operating flights to Europe and Africa from the airlines’ hub at Houari Boumediene International Airport in Algiers. Destinations include Tindouf, Djelfa, Nouakchott, Alicante, Nice, and more.
WestJet (Canada): 13 examples in service, operating mostly intra-Canada routes from the airlines’ hubs at Calgary International Airport, Toronto-Pearson International Airport, and Edmonton Airport. These aircraft will occasionally appear at leisure destinations like Phoenix and Los Angeles in the U.S.
Scandinavian Airlines (Denmark): 20 examples in service, operating loads of flights within Europe to any major city from the airlines’ hubs in Copenhagen Airport, Stockholm Arlanda Airport, and Oslo Gardermoen Airport. Other focus cities include Bergen Airport and Stavanger Airport.
Kalitta Air (United States): 3 examples in service, operating cargo flights out of America’s busiest cargo airports including Los Angeles, Anchorage, Cincinnati, Memphis, and New York – JFK.
Iran Air (Iran): 2 examples in service, operating international high-density flights normally for Hajj charters, where Iran Air actually was penalized for squeezing too many people into a plane.
United States Air Force (United States): 6 examples in service, mostly used for testing purposes, Space Shuttle transport, and high-altitude technology. You can find one of these likely at Victorville Airport in Southern California.
Air France (France): 18 examples in service, operating Europe and Northern Africa short-haul flights from Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris. Air France is the world’s largest A318 operator.
Avianca (Colombia): 10 examples in service, operating flights all over Latin America from El Dorado International Airport in Bogota, Colombia. Other major hubs include El Salvador International Airport, Jorge Chavez International Airport, and La Aurora International Airport.
TAROM (Romania): 4 examples in service, operating domestic and international flights across Europe and the Middle East from Henri Coanda International Airport in Bucharest. The airline serves 24 destinations with the type.
Corporate/Private: 20 examples in service, many A318 aircraft operate as private jets for high-rolling executives. You can find a high concentration of these around Los Angeles, New York, London, Hong Kong, and Dubai.
AZAL Azerbaijan Airlines (Azerbaijan): 2 examples in service, operating long-haul, high-demand routes from the airlines’ hub at Heydar Aliyev International Airport in Baku, Azerbaijan. These fly regular flights to New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport in the United States.
Eithad Airways (United Arab Emirates): 2 examples in service, operating long haul flights from Abu Dhabi International Airport in Abu Dhabi. Destinations include Manchester, Sydney, and Frankfurt.
British Aerospace Jetstream 31
Pascan Aviation (Canada): 11 examples in service, operating short commuter flights from Montreal/Saint-Hubert Airport in Montreal, Quebec. The Jetstream 31 flies to Sept-Iles, Bonaventure, Bagotville, and Quebec City.
Dierktflyg (Sweden): 3 examples in service, operating flights from Stockholm-Arlanda Airport to domestic cities in Sweden such as Hagfors, Torsby, and Umea.
Vincent Aviation (New Zealand): 4 examples in service, operating air charter, freight, and subcontract flights from the airlines’ hub at Wellington International Airport. Destinations include Queenstown, Dunedin, Christchurch, and Avarua.
British Aerospace 146
Cobham Aviation Services (Australia): 8 examples in service, operating scheduled charter flights from Adelaide International Airport in South Australia. You can find these flights at any major Australian airport.
International Governments: There are multiple bAe-146 aircraft in use for governments today, notably Austria, Bahamas, Bolivia, Mali, United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom.
KLM Cityhopper (The Netherlands): 13 examples in service, operating short-haul European runs from Amsterdam-Schiphol Airport to the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Spain. KLM Cityhopper is the world’s largest operator of Fokker 70’s.
Alliance Airlines (Australia): 11 examples in service, operating charter and scheduled passenger flights from all major Australian airports including Brisbane, Adelaide, Cairns, Essendon, Townsville, and Perth. You can sometimes find a frame or two at Auckland Airport in New Zealand.
Air Niugini (Papua New Guinea): 7 examples in service, operating domestic Papua New Guinea and some Australian flights from Jacksons International Airport in Port Moresby.
Alliance Airlines (Australia): 24 examples in service, see Fokker 70 section for more info.
Iran Aseman Airlines (Iran): 18 examples in service, operating primarily domestic Iran flights from Mehrabad International Airport in Tehran. Destinations include Barn, Khoy, Bandar Lengeh, Isfahan, and others.
Austrian Airlines (Austria): 7 examples in service, operating high-frequency European flights from Vienna International Airport to cities such as Innsbruck, Salzburg, Frankfurt, Munich, and Cologne. These are due to be phased out before 2018.
QantasLink (Australia): 17 examples in service, operating flights from major QANTAS hubs to smaller, remote mining towns such as Port Hedland, Geraldton, Derby, and Barcaldine, among others.
It is quite obvious to note that if you want to see a bunch of Fokker aircraft, Australia is the hotspot with every major airline operating numerous daily flights with the type out of all the countries’ major airports.
Great Lakes Aviation (United States): 7 examples in service, almost exclusively operating short flights from Denver International Airport to small villages in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming.
Ameriflight (United States): 10 examples in service, operating short-haul cargo flights from all corners of the U.S, with hubs in Albuquerque, Buffalo, Dallas, Cincinnati, St. Louis, and King County, among others.
Brazilian Air Force (Brazil): 15 examples in service, no scheduled dates, however, you will likely find one at any Brasilian Naval base across the country. The Brazilian military is the worlds’ largest operator of this type.