My Favorite Website For Tracking A Plane’s History

Filed Under: Travel Technology
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While I of course love miles and points and travel, I’m also obsessed with aviation. Oddly my fascination is limited to commercial aviation, and to some extent, private aviation. Talk to me about military planes and I’ll start falling asleep. However, I could spend hours on end learning every little detail of the history of an airliner.

People often ask me about my favorite airline/travel apps and websites, and the truth is that I don’t have that many. Even though I work primarily online, I’m bizarrely low tech. Probably my two favorite aviation geek related websites and apps are FlightStats and Flightradar24, which I’ve written about before.

However, I have another site that I have an unhealthy obsession with —

What makes Airfleets awesome?

Basically, Airfleets tells you everything you need to know about the history of the commercial airplanes you’re flying on. On the most basic level, you can see:

  • How many planes and what type of planes an airline has in their fleet
  • How old the planes , what airlines they used to fly with, etc.
  • You can see a ranking of how old a carrier’s planes are in comparison to other airlines flying the same type of plane.

My favorite way to start playing around with the site is to search by airline. You can either go to this page to search an airline by name, or more often than not I just Google the name of the airline followed by “Airfleets.”

So let me use Ukraine International Airlines as an example, since I flew them recently. Once you’ve done the above, you’ll be brought to this fleet page for UIA:


It’s always interesting to see how many active planes they have, how many they have stored, how many they’ve written off (fortunately none in this case, though the same can’t be said for airlines like Korean Air), etc.

In the very right column you’ll see “age” listed. When you click on that, you can see how that carrier’s average fleet age compares to others. For example, you can see that Ukraine operates one of the older 767 fleets out there, as it ranks #74 out of 106 airlines operating the plane.


But I’m more curious specifically about the details of the 767 I flew between Kiev and New York, so I clicked on the “4” next to 767. That brought me to a page showing all kinds of info about these planes, including whether they’re leased or owned, their line number, their delivery date, etc.


For example, the flight I took from Kiev to New York was operated by UR-GED (I know that because it was written underneath the tail of the plane, as usual).


So to see the full history of the plane, just click on the number under the “MSN” column — in this case it’s 25536. That brings you to a new page. As it turns out, this plane started flying in 1993, and has operated on behalf of Royal Brunei and Vietnam Airlines before flying for Aerosvit, which is Ukraine’s predecessor. Fascinating!


Anyway, those are the very basics. I know this sounds ridiculously lame, but I could spend hours just looking at the history of every plane. Not only do airplanes bring together the world, but it’s amazing how in many cases planes have operated for airlines based on three or four continents.

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If you’re as much of an airplane nerd as I am and haven’t played around with Airfleets yet, you’re missing out.

Anyone else as obsessed with Airfleets as I am?

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  1. I don’t think real airplane enthusiasts feel the pressure to constantly refer to themselves as “geek” and “nerd”

  2. I use – well laid out with photos but not sure if they have rankings.

  3. @Lucky – These are useful resources, but unfortunately they are regularly inaccurate. Probably good enough for amateur spotters and enthusiasts, but if you need accurate data for valuations, insurance, etc.. then you need to use a professional intelligence service like ch-aviation who I find to be the best in the business for this kind of stuff.

  4. I always look up the plane I’m flying on and make every effort to see the tail number. My favorite “fun” app is Planes Live where I can see an aircraft overhead, open the app and see what airline, departure and arrival cities, elevation and speed. I was outside yesterday and looked up and saw a huge wing. I assumed it was an A380. Opened the app and confirmed it was an Emirates A380 going to JFK–and it gives you the tail number and then I go to Airfleets to check the history.

  5. @Sean M Ascends fleet database is another good one. Airfleets is pretty great for the average enthusiast, but you’re right…it’s crowd sourced, so the accuracy isn’t guaranteed. I used to work at a lessor, so I’d often find inaccuracies in the Airfleets data.

  6. As soon as I see a tail number, I google for it. Everything listed above has come up in the search results. Much easier than bookmarking specific sites.

  7. How do you know what the registration/msn/etc/etc is of a plane scheduled for a route on a given day?

    (So say the A388 EK SFO–>DXB on a specific date in Feb)

  8. I can spend hours and hours on flightradar, especially late at night if I can’t sleep – it is fascinating! The other night I saw an Iraqi Airways A320 had just taken off from Gatwick which was so intriguing, I then spent ages googling it and reading all about its eventful history. I didn’t know about Airfleets but can’t wait to try it!

  9. Seeing AWAS listed as lessor on those 763’s brought a smile to my face. Obviously Ansett has been gone for 15 years now, but it’s good to see one of their former businesses still thriving.

  10. Let’s hope their other information is more reliable than the information they have about LH Aircraft.
    LH assigned D-ABI. (D-ABIA, D-ABIB etc.) plus a few additional tail numbers after they reached D-ABIZ (like D-ABBI) for their B727 aircraft. shows those tail numbers as B737 or B737extended. Great job!

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