My Favorite Website For Tracking A Plane’s History

My Favorite Website For Tracking A Plane’s History

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Just as I’m obsessed with miles and points, I also have an unhealthy interest in commercial aviation. That’s to say that I love learning everything about planes, including those that I’m flying on, as well as those I just see overhead.

In this post I wanted to talk briefly about Airfleets, which is my favorite website for tracking the history of a plane. I love Flightradar24 for flight tracking, FlightStats for tracking a flight’s status, and Airfleets for tracking the history of a plane.

What information does Airfleets provide?

Airfleets is a website that essentially tells you everything you could want to know about the history of the commercial airplanes you’re flying on (or even those you’re not flying on). You can either look up planes by their registration codes, or you can track the fleet of an airline in general.

Airfleets will tell you:

  • How many planes and what type of planes an airline has in its fleet
  • How old the planes are, and if they used to fly for any other airlines
  • A ranking of how old a carrier’s planes are in comparison to other airlines flying the same types of planes

If you just generally want to poke around and have fun, I think the best option 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.”

Let me use Delta Air Lines as an example. If you go to Delta’s fleet page, you’ll see various details about the fleet, including the active fleet, parked fleet, and planes the airline has flown in the past.

You can click on the numbers in any column to see more details for a specific aircraft type within the fleet. For example, if you click on A320, you can see the manufacturer’s serial number (MSN), registration, delivery date, and more, for each A320 in the fleet.

Note that the delivery date only reflects when the plane was delivered to the airline, so it doesn’t reflect the overall age of the plane. To find out the true history of the plane, click on the specific registration code. For example, if you click on the first one (N309US), you’ll see that the A320 is actually about 31 years old, as it first flew for Northwest for 19 years, before technically being delivered to Delta (when the airlines merged).

Going back to the main fleet page, I love clicking on the “age” button, to both see the average age of a particular plane in a carrier’s fleet, and to see how that fleet age compares to other airlines operating the same type of plane. As you can see in the case of Delta, the Atlanta-based airline operates some old planes. For example, Delta A320s are an average of almost 26 years old, meaning Delta’s A320 fleet is among the oldest in the world.

And if you think Delta’s fleet has some history, check out the fleet of Montreal-based charter airline Nolinor. The airline operates the world’s oldest 737 still in service. Specifically, I’m talking about the 737-200 with the registration code C-GNLK. The plane entered service in 1974, so it has been flying for over 47 years.

HOW COOL IS THAT PLANE’S HISTORY?! Transavia, Saudia, Air Florida, Star Peru, etc.?!

I should mention that Airfleet’s data isn’t going to be 100% accurate every time, so only use this for amateur plane tracking purposes, and not for any serious matters.

How do you figure out a plane’s registration code?

In addition to aimlessly browsing Airfleets, I also look at the site when I’m about to board a flight:

  • I’m always curious how old a plane is (though I can often roughly figure that out based on the registration code and type of plane, at least for the airlines I frequently fly)
  • I’m always curious if a plane has flown for another airline

How do you figure out a plane’s registration code? If you’re at the airport, you can do so visually. The registration code is usually written near the back of the plane — in the below picture it’s N324RA.

American Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8

Okay, the reality is that I know there won’t be much history there — based on looking at the plane, I know it’s a 737 MAX 8 (you can tell based on the “zig-zag” engine design), and I know it’ll be at most a few years old, give or take. And that is indeed confirmed when I check — the plane was delivered to American in late 2017.

If you want a plane with a bit more history, take a look at the below Boliviana de Aviacion plane with the registration code CP-2880.

Boliviana de Aviacion 767-300

Unsurprisingly, this plane has a bit more history. It’s 27 years old, and used to fly for Alitalia, TAM, and more.

If you’re at a gate and can’t actually see the plane’s registration code, you can cross-reference Flightradar24. If you look up a flight number there, it will typically show the registration code for the plane operating the flight, which you can then use to look up the history of the plane.

Bottom line

Airfleets is my favorite website for tracking the history of a plane. As an avgeek I could spend hours per day just looking up the history of various planes. Fortunately I don’t spend quite that much time on the website, but I do sometimes end up going down rabbit holes and looking at just how well traveled some planes are.

It’s always fun to see a plane that has been flying for a long time, and in some cases has even been based on three or four continents. If you’re as much of an avgeek as I am and haven’t played around with Airfleets yet, you’re missing out.

Anyone else enjoy using Airfleets as much as I do?

Conversations (11)
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  1. Shray Guest

    Thank you for sharing this. Was happy to track history of some of my first commercial airplanes.

  2. Jamie Guest

    Omg. I love flight radar but this adds an extra dimension. Thanks Ben.

  3. VT-CIE Gold

    I personally vastly prefer Planespotters to Airfleets as far as plane registration data is concerned. I am not bothered so much about the accuracy of the data as much as the ease of navigating the website, and this is a big thumbs down for Airfleets. With Planespotters, for example, I can easily check what special livery aircraft an airline currently has, and thre is also a large photo database; plus, the UI is much more...

    I personally vastly prefer Planespotters to Airfleets as far as plane registration data is concerned. I am not bothered so much about the accuracy of the data as much as the ease of navigating the website, and this is a big thumbs down for Airfleets. With Planespotters, for example, I can easily check what special livery aircraft an airline currently has, and thre is also a large photo database; plus, the UI is much more modern than Airfleets. It’s all a matter of personal preference here.

  4. derek Guest

    I feel so cheated if I cannot see the registration number nor any hint of it from the front. Alaska Airlines has a number on the front, like 825, which helps. Even worse if it is dark and the gate has no windows that one can see the plane.

  5. Jerry Diamond

    Surely I'm not the only person who read this article, then immediately googled "Iran Air Airfleets"

  6. Roberto Guest

    Lete me add 2 other web sites that are really interresting if you are flying commecrcial airlines:

    (1) https://avherald.com
    Check for any former incidents regarding your plane.

    (2) https://turbli.com
    Get an idea about weather conditions on your flight, including turbulences and wind.

  7. TM Gold

    The best part about Airfleets is using it to prove people wrong when they post ignorant comments on OMAAT. Like the guy who was going on and on about United being the superior airline because they have a younger fleet, yet the Airfleets data showing an average fleet age older than both DL and AA.

  8. Morgan Diamond

    Thanks ben great tip!

  9. at Guest

    Ben (and others),
    how is planespotters vs airfleets?
    I enjoy planespotters as it tells you the seat count as well so you can decipher which configuration a particular registration may be in. Though it too is not always accurate.

    1. Sean M. Diamond

      Airfleets has significantly more accurate data that planespotters does, at least in my experience. But neither is reliable as a source for corporate data.

  10. Sean M. Guest

    Sadly Airfleets data is crowdsourced for the most part and is not entirely accurate. I wouldn't rely on it for anything other than hobbyist interest. If you want professional quality data, I would recommend someone like ch-aviation who offer very solid subscription based database access.

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The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

VT-CIE Gold

I personally vastly prefer Planespotters to Airfleets as far as plane registration data is concerned. I am not bothered so much about the accuracy of the data as much as the ease of navigating the website, and this is a big thumbs down for Airfleets. With Planespotters, for example, I can easily check what special livery aircraft an airline currently has, and thre is also a large photo database; plus, the UI is much more modern than Airfleets. It’s all a matter of personal preference here.

1
Roberto Guest

Lete me add 2 other web sites that are really interresting if you are flying commecrcial airlines: (1) https://avherald.com Check for any former incidents regarding your plane. (2) https://turbli.com Get an idea about weather conditions on your flight, including turbulences and wind.

1
Sean M. Guest

Sadly Airfleets data is crowdsourced for the most part and is not entirely accurate. I wouldn't rely on it for anything other than hobbyist interest. If you want professional quality data, I would recommend someone like ch-aviation who offer very solid subscription based database access.

1
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