Plane has three engines? It’s likely to be an older aircraft model. Picture: Thinkstock Source: ThinkStock
Have you ever wondered just how many years the plane you’re flying in has clocked up in the skies?
The seat covers have worn thin, the arm rest has now taken on a brownish tinge and you’re pretty sure every spring in the seat is leaving a permanent indent in your backside. Airfare Watchdog reveals the skies are full of old aircraft including Boeing 717s and early versions of the 757, 767 and 737. In fact before the 757 production was retired you could have been flying on a plane that was 26 years old. However, these older aircraft are more likely to be flying in Africa, South America or in other Third World countries, but not always!
Of course, it might be difficult to see the registration number from the gate unless the aircraft is parked at an angle so the tail number is visible, or unless you’re boarding or deplaning using stairs. You can also ask a gate agent or the pilots for the registration number, although there have been reports of ill-defined security concerns when passengers request this information. Mind you, if you are at the gate and about to board the aircraft, you have left your investigation far too late!
The age of a plane ndoes not mean that it is safe. The Dreamliner 787 which Boeing stated to be the most technological advanced and state of the art plane in the skies was grounded due to ongoing safety concerns last year.
The average age of QANTAS aircraft is 7.9 years, while the Delta Airlines fleet averages 16.9 years.
So how can you tell your aircraft’s age?
However, Airfare Watchdog has put together some more basic signs that your aircraft could be due for retirement:
• The flight attendant call button symbol is wearing a skirt or is labelled stewardess.
The symbol in a skirt indicates the plane may not be a spring chicken. Picture: Tnarik Source: Flickr
• You’ll find a no-smoking sign above the seats instead of a ‘turn off electronics’ symbol.
No smoking sign. Source: ThinkStock
• There’s still an ashtray on your seat’s arm rest and in the bathrooms.
If there’s an ashtray in the lavatory, it’s a sign of age. Picture: Brownpau Source: Flickr
• There’s a stairway to the outside in the tail of the plane.
There’s a stairway in there! Picture: Wbaiv Source: Flickr
N505AA pictured above is an Americans Airline McDonnell-Douglas MD-82 (cn49799) which was delivered to American Airlines 9/11/1989. In 2014, this aircraft is 25 years old. Find a full history of this aircraft here.
• There are three engines instead of two or four (pictured above).
• Your entertainment screens drop from the ceiling.
Entertainment screens above. Picture: Mroach Source: Flickr
Does this mean that your older aircraft is not safe? Well, yes and no. The aircraft may be well maintained and meticulously serviced and hold a current Certificate of Airworthiness, BUT, the older the aircraft, the more flight cycles it has done, and thus it is susceptible to metal fatigue, component failure especially if it has been involved in incidents, requiring repairs to pressure bulkheads, doors, luggage doors, flight surfaces and to the fuselage.
When booking a flight, research your airline, look at the aircraft it uses, and it’s history of accidents and incidents. As a rule of thumb, if the airline your thinking of flying with uses Soviet built aircraft, find another!