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?