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.
Qantas’ Five-Engine Ferry
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
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.
Ed Force One Makes an Entrance
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.
Drawing a Plane with a Plane
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
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
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
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.
Solar Impulse Resumes 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.
The An-225 Visits 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
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.
Saying Goodbye to Ed Force One
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
On 30 June, the first C Series CS100 went home with launch customer Swiss. The airline put the CS100 into revenue service in July.
Pope Francis Returns to Rome
— Flightradar24 (@flightradar24) July 31, 2016
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.
Crash of Emirates 521
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
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.
The An-22 Returns to Commercial Service
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
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.
Airbus Delivers Its 10,000th Aircraft
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
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
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.
Chasing the An-225 Around the World
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
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
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
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.
— Flightradar24 (@flightradar24) November 29, 2016
Our portrait pilot from earlier in the year decided to stop by and say ‘Hello’ to close out November.
Crash of Pakistan International Airlines 661
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.
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.
|January||BOE1||Boeing 737 MAX First Flight|
|February||ABD012P||Ferry of Ed Force 1 to Cardiff|
|March||MSR181||Hijacked EgyptAir Flight Lands in Cyprus|
|April||SOLAR2||Solar Impulse Resumes Its Round-the-World Journey|
|May||ADB310F||The An-225 ferries to Leipzig|
|June||ASL500||Air Serbia Inaugurates Service to New York|
|July||LOT7234||Pope Francis Returns to Rome from Krakow*|
|August||BAW2016||British Olympians Return to London from Rio|
|September||EVA191||EVA Air Flight 191 Tries to Land in Tapei During Typhoon Megi|
|October||NASA872||NASA’s Global Hawk UAV collects data on Hurricane Matthew|
|November||AIB01IL||Airbus A350-1000 First Flight|
|December||C130||Victims 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.
Happy New Year and happy tracking!