There are over 1500 registered commercial airplanes in India of which more than 600 are actively flying, according to ch-aviation. With some existing airlines inducting newer planes into their fleets, the country is home to many young aircraft. However, there are some that have been flying for decades, serving in all kinds of roles.

While most of India’s 600+ active commercial planes are fairly young, there are some that have been around for decades. Photo: Venkat Mangudi via Wikimedia Commons

More than half a century old

The oldest aircraft in India is 51.04 years old. Flying for the Indian Air Force (IAF), it’s not involved in commercial service anymore but it does have a commercial history. The Boeing 737-200 first entered service in January 1971 with former domestic carrier Indian Airlines. It had a registration number VT-EAJ and serial number 273. In 1993 it was acquired by the IAF and its registration changed to K3187.

The next two oldest planes on the list are also former Indian Airlines B737-200s bought by the IAF with registrations K2412 and K2413 and both around 38 years old. These older refurbished 737s are mainly used as VIP aircraft to fly top politicians in the country.

India’s Oldest Active Commerical Aircraft
While not in commercial service anymore, the three oldest active airplanes in India fly for IAF but flew commercially in the past for former Indian Airlines. Photo: John Wheatley via Wikimedia Commons

Cargo dominates the list

The next few airplanes down the list are all from cargo operators. That’s hardly a surprise since cargo airlines often go for older planes that no longer fly for passenger carrying services. The oldest among these all belong to Blue Dart Aviation, a cargo airline based in the southern Indian city of Chennai.

All six Boeing 757-200(PCF)s make up the entire fleet of Blue Dart Aviation and are between 24 to almost 30 years old. The oldest of the six VT-BDO (29.68 years) entered service in 1992 with Britannia Airways and was converted into a freighter in 2002 for Boullioun Aviation Services. After flying cargo for a couple of other carriers, it entered Blue Dart’s fleet in July 2012.

The other five Blue Dart 757s with registrations VT-BDN, VT-BDM, VT-BDQ, VT-BDB, VT-BDA are 29.44, 26.25, 25.81, 25.08, and 24.73 years old, respectively.

India’s Oldest Active Commerical Aircraft
Blue Dart’s VT-BDO is one of the oldest airplane in the country at almost 30 years old. Photo: Venkat Mangudi via Wikimedia Commons

Joining the cargo list are five passenger-to-cargo-converted Boeing 737s of SpiceXpress, the cargo division of India’s low-cost carrier SpiceJet. Three of these converted freighters are the 737-700 variant and two -800.

All five have been flying for over two decades, with the oldest, VT-SFB, being 23.45 years old with a serial number 73. Joining Xiamen Airlines as a passenger plane and changing owners a couple of other times, it was converted into a freighter for SpiceXpress in 2018.

Passenger jets

Among the passenger jets, two of the oldest active airplanes surprisingly belong to IndiGo, known for its young narrowbody fleet. The two Airbus A320-200 with the registrations VT-IKC and VT-IHV, are fast approaching the two-decade mark at 18.88 and 17.76 years, respectively. The older of the two first flew for the Gulf carrier Qatar Airways in 2003 and joined IndiGo fairly recently in 2019.

India’s Oldest Active Commerical Aircraft
Among active passenger jets, IndiGo operates the oldest. Photo: Getty Images.

Regional carrier Star Air’s four Embraer 145LRs also make the list with all four being between 17 and 18 years old.

Rounding out the top 10 oldest active passenger jets are SpiceJet’s 737-800 (VT-SGJ, 16.88 years), an Embraer 135LR of air charter company India Fly Safe Aviation (VT-JSI, 16.83 years), AirAsia India’s A320-200 (VT-HYD, 16.13 years) and Air India’s A319-200 (VT-SCB, 16.1 years).

Special mention

Airports Authority of India (AAI) also have two of the oldest active airplanes in the country. Although not used for carrying passengers or cargo, its two Dornier 228-200 airplanes are part of AAI’s flight inspection unit.

VT-ENK and VT-EPU are well over three decades old at 35.3 and 33.79 years, respectively. AAI deploys the two airplanes to inspect airport features such as ground navigational aids, visual landing aids, etc. These airplanes have also inspected airports of neighboring countries, including Nepal, Maldives, Bangladesh and Bhutan under UNDP projects and bilateral agreements.