As the year comes to a close, we look back on some of the flights that made news this year. Some of the most-followed flights marked the beginning of a long journey —like the first flights of the 737 MAX and A350-1000—while others celebrated the end of one—like Solar Impulse’s successful round-the-world flight. We’ll walk through the year and some of the highs and lows of aviation and look forward to what next year may bring.


January

Qantas’ Five-Engine Ferry

Qantas’ five-engine ferry prepares to depart Sydney for Johannesburg via Perth.
Qantas’ five-engine ferry prepares to depart Sydney for Johannesburg via Perth.

The year began with a most unusual flight. When Qantas 747 VH-OJU had engine trouble in Johannesburg, VH-OJS came to the rescue ferrying a spare Rolls Royce engine from Sydney to Johannesburg for the stricken plane. We talked with Qantas to learn more about how they completed the 5-engine ferry flight.

Boeing 737 MAX First Flight

The Boeing 737 MAX takes off for the first time
The Boeing 737 MAX takes off for the first time

In late January, the Boeing 737 MAX took flight for the first time. N8701Q was the first of four 737 MAX aircraft to enter the test program ahead of entry into service with launch customer Southwest Airlines in late 2017. N8701Q spent over 560 hours in the air through October before being sent for modifications ahead of delivery to Southwest.


February

Ed Force One Makes an Entrance

Ed Force One arriving in Amsterdam.
Ed Force One

On 17 February, avgeeks and rock fans followed Iron Maiden’s Ed Force One from Sharjah to Cardiff on delivery to the band to begin their Book of Souls tour. In March, Ed Force One would be back in the news for a very different reason.


March

Drawing a Plane with a Plane

The completed airplane portrait.
The completed airplane portrait.

On 12 March, the pilot of D-EFHN took to the sky to draw the first portrait of a plane with another plane. Over the course of an hour the pilot completed the portrait, then returned later to sign his name.

Crash of FlyDubai 981

A6-FDN, which crashed in Rostov-on-Don on 19 March.
A6-FDN, which crashed in Rostov-on-Don on 19 March.

On 19 March, FlyDubai flight 981, operating from Dubai, UAE, to Rostov-on-Don, Russia crashed while attempting a go-around at Rostov-on-Don Airport.

Putting Ed Force One Back Together Again

A look at Ed Force One before and after replacing the port-side engines.
A look at Ed Force One before and after replacing the port-side engines.

On 12 March, while being moved to a refueling dock in Santiago, Ed Force One suffered substantial damage after it collided with the ground tug pulling it. The collision damaged the 747’s two port-side engines, but quick work saw Ed Force One repaired in less than 10 days. We looked at the logistics behind the repair.

Hijacking of EgyptAir 181

SU-GCB
SU-GCB, which was hijacked and directed to Larnaca

On 29 March, EgyptAir flight 181, operating from Alexandria to Cairo was hijacked and directed to fly to Larnaca, Cyprus. After negotiations, all passengers and crew were released and the hijacker was taken into custody.


April

Solar Impulse Resumes Its Round-the-World Flight

Solar Impulse on its round-the-world flight
Solar Impulse on its round-the-world flight

On 21 April, Solar Impulse resumed its round-the-world solar-powered flight after necessary repairs kept it in Hawaii from July 2015. Solar Impulse completed its journey, landing back in Abu Dhabi in July.


May

The An-225 Visits Perth

The Antonov An-225 landing in Perth
The Antonov An-225 landing in Perth

On 10 May, the largest cargo plane in the world began a 9 day journey, bringing a large generator to Perth and then oil drilling equipment to the UAE. Hundreds of thousands of people followed along on Flightradar24 and took a tour of the massive aircraft on our blog.

Crash of EgyptAir 804

SU-GCC, the Airbus A320 operating MS804
SU-GCC, the Airbus A320 operating MS804

Early on the morning of 19 May 2016, EgyptAir announced that it had lost contact with flight 804, traveling from Paris to Cairo. Wreckage from the aircraft was subsequently found in the Mediterranean. The exact cause of the crash is still under investigation.


June

Saying Goodbye to Ed Force One

Ed Force One’s journey through the western hemisphere.
Ed Force One’s journey through the western hemisphere.

With its arrival in Gothenburg on 16 June, Iron Maiden’s Ed Force One completed its part of The Book of Souls tour. Over the course of five months with the band, Ed Force One visited 45 cities on six continents and traveled over 123,000 kilometers.

Delivery of the First Bombardier C Series CS100

The first CS100 delivered to Swiss
The first CS100 delivered to Swiss

On 30 June, the first C Series CS100 went home with launch customer Swiss. The airline put the CS100 into revenue service in July.


July

Pope Francis Returns to Rome

At the conclusion of his visit to Poland in July, Pope Francis boarded a LOT 787 in Kraków for the flight home to Rome. Our most-watched flight of the year, it was was viewed live over 530,000 times, with about 135,000 watching as the flight departed.

Touring Hong Kong Trader

On 30 July, we visited EAA Airventure to tour Cathay Pacific’s Hong Kong Trader Boeing 747-8F, which was at Oshkosh to help celebrate Boeing’s 100th anniversary. See more from our time at Oshkosh.


August

Crash of Emirates 521

A6-EMW, the Emirates Boeing 777 which was involved in the crash at Dubai on 3 Aug.
A6-EMW, the Emirates Boeing 777 which was involved in the crash at Dubai on 3 Aug.

Emirates flight 521 from Thiruvananthapuram to Dubai crashed while attempting a missed approach at Dubai International Airport on 3 August. The aircraft impacted Runway 12L and slid to a stop. All passengers and crew evacuated the aircraft safely, however one fire fighter was killed during efforts to extinguish the fire when one of the aircraft’s fuel tanks exploded.

American Airlines Super 80 Send Off

AA MD80
One of 20 American Airlines MD-80s retired on 23 August.

On 23 August, American Airlines retired 20 MD-82 and MD-83 aircraft to Roswell, New Mexico, one of the largest single-day aircraft retirements in airline history. American is retiring a total of 45 MD-80 series aircraft this year, leaving 52 in the fleet at the end of 2016. At one point, the American MD-80 fleet numbered 370.


September

The An-22 Returns to Commercial Service

The Antonov An-22
The Antonov An-22

On 8 September, the world’s largest turboprop aircraft, the Antonov An-22, returned to commercial service after sitting on the ground for 7 years.

Typhoon Megi hits Taiwan

EVA Air flight 191 eventually diverted to Hong Kong after trying to land in Typhoon Megi
EVA Air flight 191 eventually diverted to Hong Kong after trying to land in Typhoon Megi

At the end of September, Typhoon Megi impacted Taiwan causing delays, cancellations, and diversions— including our most watched flight in September, EVA Air flight 191. BR191 made three landing attempts at Taipei during the typhoon before diverting to Hong Kong.


October

Airbus Delivers Its 10,000th Aircraft

The 10,000th Airbus delivered
The 10,000th Airbus delivered

In October, Airbus delivered their 10,000th aircraft, an A350 for Singapore Airlines. Airbus delivered its first aircraft, an A300B2 for Air France, in May 1974.

American Airlines 787 Quick Fix

N812AA
N812AA, the 787 operating AA288

On Wednesday, 12 October at 38,000 feet over the North Pacific Ocean, American Airlines flight 288 developed an issue with its number 2 engine, the General Electric GEnx-1B engine on the right hand side of the aircraft. The crew decided the best course of action was to divert the aircraft, but over the Pacific, options were limited. The nearest suitable runway was Cold Bay, Alaska, a town of just over 100 people. Even before the flight had landed in Cold Bay, American Airlines had begun a carefully coordinated scramble to get 100 passengers to their destination and their 787 back in the air.

Eastern Air Lines 737 Runway Excursion in New York

N278EA, the 737 involved in the runway excursion, in Trump | Pence campaign livery
N278EA, the 737 involved in the runway excursion, in Trump | Pence campaign livery

On 27 October Eastern Air Lines flight 3452 suffered a runway excursion while landing at La Guardia Airport in New York. The aircraft exited the usable portion of the runway and continued through a portion of the EMAS, coming to rest on the grass to the side of the runway. The flight was carrying then US Vice-Presidential candidate Mike Pence, campaign staff, and members of the media.


November

Chasing the An-225 Around the World

An225OpenDoor
The An-225 in Houston ready to load hundreds of tonnes of cargo

In November, we once again followed the Antonov An-225 around the world, though this time with much more difficulty thanks to an ever-changing schedule and an operational miscalculation. During the An-225’s visit to South America it was determined one of the scheduled stops did not have have sufficient ground equipment to handle the aircraft. The An-225 made a stop to collect the right equipment, adding a few additional flights to its journey.

Airbus A350-1000 First Flight

F-WMIL
The Airbus A350-1000 departs on its first flight

The Airbus A350-1000 took flight for the first time in late November, embarking on a yearlong flight test campaign before Qatar Airways puts the first delivery into commercial service in late 2017. The A350-1000 is the stretched sibling of the A350-900, which entered service in 2015.

Crash of LMI2933

Lamia RJ85 CP-2933
Lamia RJ85 CP-2933

While conducting flight LMI2933 from Santa Cruz, Bolivia to Medellín, Colombia, a LAMIA Bolivia aircraft (registration CP-2933) crashed south of Medellin Airport near La Union. The flight was carrying Brazilian football club Chapecoense to Medellín for a Copa Sudamerica finals match.

First Bombardier C Series CS300 Delivered

The first CS300 delivered to airBaltic
The first CS300 delivered to airBaltic

On 29 November, the first CS300 was delivered to a customer as the larger C Series aircraft went home with airBaltic. The airline began revenue service with the aircraft in December.

Hello

Our portrait pilot from earlier in the year decided to stop by and say ‘Hello’ to close out November.


December

Crash of Pakistan International Airlines 661

Pakistan International Airlines ATR 42-500, AP-BHO
Pakistan International Airlines ATR 42-500, AP-BHO

While conducting flight PK661 from Chitral to Islamabad, Pakistan International Airlines ATR 42-500 registered AP-BHO crashed north of Islamabad near Havelian in mountainous terrain. Flightradar24 received data from the aircraft, however, the data was incomplete and not sufficient to track the aircraft fully using MLAT. We were able to plot altitude data for the flight, but not positional information.

Christmas Cheer

Christmas wishes sky art from pilots around the world.
Christmas wishes sky art from pilots around the world.

Throughout December, pilots took to the sky with Christmas wishes, including multiple Christmas trees, and one ‘Merry Xmas’ message.


2016’s Most Tracked Flights

We looked at month-by-month data for the most-watched live flights. Our most-watched flight this year was Pope Francis’ return to Rome from Kraków, with over 530,000 views during the live flight. Overall the most tracked aircraft was the An-225.

MonthFlightSignificance
JanuaryBOE1Boeing 737 MAX First Flight
FebruaryABD012PFerry of Ed Force 1 to Cardiff
MarchMSR181Hijacked EgyptAir Flight Lands in Cyprus
AprilSOLAR2Solar Impulse Resumes Its Round-the-World Journey
MayADB310FThe An-225 ferries to Leipzig
JuneASL500Air Serbia Inaugurates Service to New York
JulyLOT7234Pope Francis Returns to Rome from Krakow*
AugustBAW2016British Olympians Return to London from Rio
SeptemberEVA191EVA Air Flight 191 Tries to Land in Tapei During Typhoon Megi
OctoberNASA872NASA’s Global Hawk UAV collects data on Hurricane Matthew
NovemberAIB01ILAirbus A350-1000 First Flight
DecemberC130Victims of LMI2933 Crash are Flown Home

Looking forward to 2017

Aviation milestones we’re anticipating in 2017 include the first flights of the Airbus A330neo, Boeing 787-10, Boeing 737 MAX 9, and the COMAC C919. We’re also looking forward to the delivery of the first 737 MAX 8 to Southwest Airlines.

A Boeing 737 MAX 8 in Southwest livery awaiting engines
A Boeing 737 MAX 8 in Southwest livery awaiting engines

Happy New Year and happy tracking!

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