I’m always fascinated by the the history of the planes I’m flying on. Not to sound like Mitt Romney, but as far as I’m concerned, planes are people too. 😉 They have some interesting histories, and I’m really sad when they go to the plane “graveyard.”
Before I explain how to search the age of the plane you’re flying, let me emphasize that the age of a plane has very little impact on its safety. Rather you should be concerned about the maintenance practices of an airline. A well maintained 40 year old plane can be just as safe (or maybe even safer) than a brand new plane.
With that out of the way, early last year I wrote about how you can use Airfleets to track the history of a plane. However, I explained that in the context of visually seeing the registration code of the plane you’re on.
So how can you find out more about the plane you’re flying if you don’t know that registration code? It’s a two step process. This will only work if you’re searching close to departure, since airlines typically don’t assign tail numbers until fairly close to departure, and that’s always subject to change anyway until the plane leaves.
Let’s say you’re flying today from Frankfurt to Seattle on Condor, which is flight DE2032 (it just departed). I would use both Flightradar24 and Airfleets to determine exactly which plane is operating the route.
First I would Google “Flightradar24 DE2032” (or you can go to Flightradar24 and search the flight number — it’s your choice). That should bring you to this page. There you’ll find the registration code listed next to the aircraft type — in this case D-ABUE.
This may not be listed if you’re searching hours or days in advance. Some airlines publish this info a few days in advance, while some only do it an hour before departure.
Once I’ve done that, I would Google “Airfleets D-ABUE,” now that I have the registration code. That brings you to this page, which shows you the history of the plane.
To me the most interesting details here are the age of the plane and the airlines that it operated for. In this case, the flight is being operated by a 25 year old 767-300 that has only ever flown for Condor and Thomas Cook, so this is one of the less exciting histories we’ve seen.
By comparison, there’s a 17 year old Condor 767 that has flown for Air Europa and Transaero.
Like I said, what you find shouldn’t matter all that much, but if you’re anything like me, you may still find this information to be interesting.