20 incredible vintage planes you can still fly in

CNN  — 

There’s no shortage of cool new planes to get excited about in 2016: the narrow-body Bombardier CS100, the next-generation Airbus A350 XWB and the low-riding Boeing 737 MAX.

But there’s nothing like the nostalgic thrill of getting close to some of aviation’s greatest pioneers, from the Bleriot XI that took Louis Bleriot over the English channel in 1909, to the de Havilland Dragon Rapide that carried both General Francisco Franco and Charles de Gaulle on history-changing operations, to the Tupolev Tu-134s that were the workhorses of the Soviet bloc.

Surprisingly, many of history’s most iconic models of plane are still airworthy and even available to fly.

Here are 20 of our favorites and tips on where you might be able to snag a seat.

And if you like these, you can also take a look at our guide to groundbreaking planes of the modern era.

READ: 20 planes every aviation fan should experience

Bleriot XI

Frenchman Edmond Salis flies a restored Bleriot XI in July 2009 to mark the 100th anniversary of Louis Bleriot's historic crossing.

First flight: 1909

In 1909 French aviation pioneer Louis Bleriot completed the first successful crossing of the English Channel by air.

This historic feat earned him a prize of £1,000 ($144,000 in today’s money). The monoplane he used for the crossing was a Bleriot XI. Amazingly, a few of these aircraft are still airworthy.

Granted, given the rarity and fragility of the type, the chances of getting to fly it are next to nil, but it would still be theoretically possible to enjoy the “Bleriot experience.”

Where can you fly it?

Two of them, built in 1909, are still airworthy, preserved in museums in the UK – the Shuttleworth Collection – and the U.S. (the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome).

These are the oldest flyable aircraft in the world, although due to their fragility they are only flown over short distances on very special occasions.

A Bleriot XI built under license in Sweden in 1918 is also preserved by the Museum of Science and Technology in Stockholm and has made occasional appearances at a local air festival.

An exact replica of the Bleriot XI is found at the Canadian Aviation Heritage Centre in Montreal, also in flying condition. Its last outing was in 2014.

READ: Greener skies: Frenchman prepares for history-making zero-carbon Atlantic flight

Junkers F13

First flight: 1919

German aviation entrepreneur Hugo Junkers came up with an aircraft that was truly ahead of its time.

The F13 was the first all-metal aircraft. Its clean simple lines and cantilever-wing monoplane design anticipate the modern airliner.

This is even more remarkable when we take into account that in the year it first flew, 1919, most aircraft were little more than primitive contraptions made of wood and cloth. The F13, in contrast, even had a closed heated cabin.

Where can you fly it?

It will soon be possible to fly again on the F13.

It won’t be an original airframe, but an exact replica, built by German luggage manufacturer RIMOWA.

The RIMOWA F13 is based at Dubendorf airfield, Switzerland, and it will soon be accepting reservations.

MORE: Back from the dead: The legendary Junkers F13 flies again

Junkers Ju 52

First flight: 1930

Another product of the Junkers workshop, the German aircraft nicknamed Tante Ju (Auntie Ju) started life in the early ’30s as a civilian airliner.

It also saw extensive military service as a transport aircraft with the Luftwaffe during World War II and with multiple air forces and airlines until long after the war was over.

It’s easily recognizable because of its characteristic tri-motor configuration and corrugated metal skin.

Where can you fly it?

To this day, German airline Lufthansa keeps an airworthy Ju 52 in its fleet that can be chartered for special occasions.

Ju-Air of Switzerland, based at Dubendorf (the same airfield where the Junkers F13 replica is also based), operates Ju 52s for pleasure flights.

Other surviving and airworthy Ju 52s are found in South Africa, France and the United States.

READ: Sky pioneers: A light aircrafter revolution is taking off

De Havilland Dragon Rapide

Visit England if you want to fly on a De Havilland Dragon Rapide.

First flight: 1934

This wooden biplane airliner had a key role in two events that changed European history.

In 1936, a Dragon Rapide flew General Francisco Franco from the Canary Islands to Spanish Morocco, at the start of the military rebellion that ignited the Spanish Civil War.

Four years later, it was also a Dragon Rapide that evacuated General Charles De Gaulle to England just before the fall of France.

But aside from these momentous appearances, the Dragon Rapide proved to be a very reliable aircraft.

It was in service with quite a few airlines before and after World War II. It even had a starring role in the 2011 British Airways TV commercial “To Fly. To Serve.”

Several Dragon Rapides are still airworthy with private operators offering pleasure flights.

Where can you fly it?

Classic Wings, based at Imperial War Museum, Duxford (UK).

A Dragon Rapide G-AHAG in the livery of Scillonia Airways is airworthy and based at Membury airfield, Berkshire (UK).

Douglas DC-3

Douglas DC-3: An aircraft that has lasted through the decades.

First flight: 1934

This is, without doubt, one of the most important aircraft in the history of aviation.

Some may even call it the first truly modern airliner.

It first flew in 1935, soon entering service with several U.S. airlines and enabling coast-to-coast passenger flights. Over 600 had been built when the United States entered the war and it was swiftly converted into a military transport under the designation C-47.

Thousands were built during World War II where it was the workhorse of the Allied armies in all theaters of the war.

A version was produced in the Soviet Union, named the Lisunov Li-2.

After the war the DC-3 became the mainstay of many airlines.

As proof of its durability and efficiency, more than 80 years after its first flight many different DC-3 aircraft are still flying around the world, and it’s still possible to book flights on them.

Where can you fly it?

DDA Classic Airlines, of the Netherlands, operates a DC-3 in classic KLM livery, available for bookings on scheduled days and upon request.

Alexander van Houtert, a manager at DDA, explains how this particular aircraft has a long and distinguished history.

During World War II, it was active over Normandy on D-Day and later during Operation Market Garden.

After the war, it used to fly the Dutch royal family around.

“It used to be the Dutch Air Force One back in those days!” says van Houtert.

Air Chathams, of New Zealand, charters a DC-3 for scenic flights and also operates some scheduled passenger services between Auckland and Whakatane.

Buffalo Airways operates scheduled DC-3 services out of Yellowknife, in Canada’s Northwest Territories. The airline was also featured in an episode of the reality TV show “Ice Pilots.”

Springbok Classic Air of South Africa operates scenic flights through Africa.

MORE: DC-3: The unbelievable airliner that just won’t quit

Lockheed Constellation and Super Constellation

The Super Constellation was known for its distinctive triple tail.

First flight: 1943

The majestic, elegant lines of the Lockheed Constellation, and its more advanced derivative, the L-1049 Super Constellation (known respectively as “Connie” and “Super Connie”), were a sight to behold.

Its characteristic triple tail was a common sight at airports in the post-war years and until the mid-1960s.

It was also the last of its kind. These older aircraft could not compete with the new jet airliners, such as the Boeing 707 and the Douglas DC-8, that replaced them on long-haul routes.

A handful of Super Connies remained in service in multiple civilian and military roles, some as late as the 1990s.

Where can you fly it?

There are two Super Constellations still flying, one of them with the Swiss watch manufacturer Breitling together with the Super Constellation Flying Association, the other one with the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society of Australia. Both surviving aircraft make regular appearances on the airshow circuit.

Convair CV-580

First flight (of the CV-240): 1947

Convair produced a whole family of airliners, starting with the CV-240, with the aim of replacing the popular DC-3 with a more advanced design featuring a pressurized cabin.

Over a thousand were built between 1947 and 1954 and entered service with a large number of airlines and air forces.

Duane Emeny, airline and charter general manager of Air Chathams, the only airline that still operates the type, highlights the reliability of the 580 variant: “The Convair 580 was truly ahead of its time, and it comes with an exceptional level of system redundancy.

“It is very robust and able to operate effectively in all sort of climates. It has enabled us to fly direct to Auckland and to bring to market the Chatham Islands’ main export: rock lobster.”

Where can you fly it?

Air Chathams, of New Zealand, has three of them still flying and available for booking.

Boeing 707

A Boeing 707 -- used by U.S. Presidents Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon and George Bush -- is housed in Air Force One Pavilion at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California.

First flight: 1957

The first modern long-haul jet: The world became a whole lot smaller once the Boeing 707 entered service in 1958.

The Boeing 707 was not only much faster than propeller aircraft, but it set standards for passenger comfort and aircraft design that, with some improvements, are still at the basis of today’s air travel experience.

The Boeing 707 was instrumental in popularizing air travel.

Where can you fly it?

Since 2011, there have not been any commercial airline services on Boeing 707s.

One option might be to get yourself invited on board one of the handful of VIP-configured Boeing 707s still operated by a handful of governments, or to befriend John Travolta, as the actor keeps one for personal use.

Hey, we never said it would be easy.

Douglas DC-8

First flight: 1958

A contemporary and rival of the Boeing 707, the DC-8 was also instrumental in the transition from propellers to jets.

It was the first airliner ever to break the sound barrier, although it was only for 16 seconds during a test flight.

It proved to be a popular airliner that remained in service for decades with many airlines and governments.

Where can you fly it?

To be honest, chances are close to nil for the general public.

However, a handful of DC-8s are still operational as freighters and, most remarkably, NASA keeps one for use as a flying laboratory.

Antonov An-24

First flight: 1959

What it lacks in glamor, the An-24 makes up for in robustness and reliability, which made it an ideal aircraft to use throughout the vast expanses of the Soviet Union.

Designed in the 1950s, it continues in service to this day with civilian and military operators, particularly in areas with little ground infrastructure.

Where can you fly it?

Although most An-24s currently in service are either freighters or military transport, Ukrainian carrier Motor Sich Airlines still operates them on regular passenger flights.

Boeing 727

You can brave a zero gravity flight on a converted Boeing 727.

First flight: 1963

What the Boeing 707 and DC-8 did for long-haul routes, the Boeing 727 did for short- and medium-haul ones.

This reliable three-engine airliner with capacity for some 150 passengers became a real workhorse of the airline industry.

As it entered service with a large number of airlines around the world, it replaced a myriad of propeller aircraft types.

Where can you fly it?

Unless you are in the military of Bolivia, Mongolia or the few other countries that still have it in government service, your best chance of flying the Boeing 727 is to head to Iran, where the last of the type are operated by Iran Aseman Airlines.

For a more unconventional Boeing 727 experience you can also book a zero gravity flight.

Tupolev Tu-134

First flight: 1963

By the second half of the 1960s, the Tu-134 was the workhorse of Soviet civilian aviation.

More than 800 of them entered service with Aeroflot and other airlines and air forces of the Communist bloc.

The signature features of the Tu-134 are its glass nose and sweptback wing, both a legacy of the Tupolev Tu-16 bomber, from which the airliner derives.

Where can you fly it?

Those wanting to fly on the Tu-134 had better hurry up since only a handful of them remain in commercial service.

Current operators include Air Koryo, the North Korean flag carrier (there are agencies that organize aviation tours of North Korea) and Russian airlines Alrosa and Kosmos Airlines.

The latter operates charter flights between Moscow and the Baikonur cosmodrome, in Kazakhstan, that can be booked as part of a special tour.

READ: Belarus to North Korea: Ultimate tour for aviation geeks

Ilyushin Il-62

First flight: 1963

The Il-62 was the Soviet answer to the Boeing 707 and DC-8. It was the main long-haul airliner of the former Communist bloc, in service with Aeroflot and the East German carrier Interflug among others.

Where can you fly it?

There are still a few in government service in Russia, but your last chance to fly it on a commercial flight is, again, with Air Koryo.

McDonnell Douglas DC-9 and MD-80/90 series

First flight: 1965

This was a widely successful aircraft, recognizable by its twin-engines located at the rear of the aircraft, next to the tail.

The relatively small DC-9 opened up many “thin” routes for jet service – the industry name for services with lower passenger demand.

It later evolved into the MD-80/90 series, for many years the third player in the market for medium-sized aircraft, competing with the Boeing 737 and the Airbus A320.

Boeing acquired McDonnell Douglas in 1997 and production of the MD-80 series was discontinued.

Some might argue that the DC-9 still lives on in the form of the Boeing 717, as the youngest and smallest of the MD-80/90 family was renamed after the Boeing acquisition.

Where can you fly it?

It’s still possible to fly DC-9s commercially with African Express Airways and Fly-Sax of Kenya or Laser Airlines of Venezuela.

For a double thrill, another way to enjoy the DC-9 is to skydive from it. Perris Valley Skydiving, based in California, still keeps one in its fleet.

Embraer EMB 110 Bandeirante

First flight: 1968

Brazil’s first foray into aircraft manufacturing: It was an experience that proved to be so successful that, five decades later, Embraer has consolidated its position in the select aircraft-making elite, focusing on the regional and executive jet segment.

Back in 1985, the Bandeirante became the first aircraft operated by a then small and little-known Irish airline called Ryanair.

Where can you fly it?

One of the perks of tracking down a Bandeirante today is that to fly one you’ll have to travel to such inspiring locations as the Cook Islands or the Bahamas, where it is still in operation with the tropically named Pineapple Air.

Airbus A300

Air France was the launch customer of the Airbus A300.

First flight: 1972

This was the first aircraft designed and produced by Airbus.

Its launch marked a momentous event for the European commercial aviation industry, which was finally able to compete head on with the large American manufacturers.

In fact, the European consortium has, since then, grown and evolved to become one of the two major players in the global aircraft manufacturing industry.

The A300 also represented a novel concept at the time: the twin-engine wide-body airliner, particularly useful for high-density short- and medium-haul routes.

READ: Could Russia’s Frigate Ecojet take on Airbus and Boeing?

Five of them, named A300-600ST, were heavily modified by Airbus to carry aircraft sections and other components between the group’s factories.

They are known as Belugas because of their whale-like shape.

READ: Airbus’ Beluga: The world’s strangest-looking airplane turns 20

Where can you fly it?

Although most of the A300s in service are freighters, you can still fly the type commercially with Kuwait Airways and Mahan Air of Iran.

Tupolev Tu-154

First flight: 1968

It is recognizable by its three engines at the back, in an arrangement similar to that of its Western contemporary, the Boeing 727.

The elegant shape of the Tu-154 can be misleading, though, since it’s a durable, robust aircraft that has been used in all sorts of runway and landing conditions.

Where can you fly it?

More than a thousand Tu-154s were built, but if you’re an aviation aficionado looking to fly on one of them, your options are running out fast. Most airlines have been actively phasing them out in recent years.

In addition to North Korea’s Air Koryo, airlines Alrosa of Russia and Belavia of Belarus still have the type in their fleets.

McDonnell Douglas DC-10/MD-11

Charity Orbis International's Flying Eye Hospital is operated on a DC-10.

First flight: 1970

This was Douglas’ answer to the Jumbo Jet. Easily recognizable because of its three-engines configuration, one below the tail, the other two in under-wing pods. It first flew in 1970 and was followed later the MD-10 and MD-11, heavily modernized successors.

Where can you fly it?

It has got a lot harder to get to fly on them since Biman, of Bangladesh operated the last DC-10 passenger flight in 2014 and KLM did the same with its last MD-11 in 2015.

There are a few freighters left, but, undoubtedly, the most remarkable surviving DC-10 was the Flying Eye Hospital, operated by charity Orbis International, as a base to provide ophthalmological services to those in need all over the world.

At the time of writing, however, Orbis International was in the process of replacing its DC-10 with a more modern MD-10 – still part of the same family of aircraft – donated by FedEx.

Fokker 50

First flight: 1985

Once upon a time not so long ago the Netherlands was a major player in the aircraft-making industry.

The Fokker 50, a propeller airliner designed for regional flights, was one of the most popular products of historical Dutch firm Fokker, which traced its roots back to the very early days of aviation.

Where you can fly it?

To fly on a Fokker 50 you can book a flight with Amapola Flyg of Sweden or charter one from Denim Air of the Netherlands, as celebrated Dutch DJ Armin van Buuren did in 2014.

MORE: Plane-spotting 101: A beginner’s guide to commercial jets