What airplane designs have been around the longest, from first flight through last retirement from active commercial or military service?

My guess is that the DC-3 will win, since it has been around since before WW II and is still in service, although there are enough other designs out there I'm not familiar with that I'll be interested to see where I may be wrong on that. (Russian designs come to mind as an obvious source of possibilities.)

Can anything out there beat the DC-3? What's the runner up?

(The wikipedia page on the DC-3 says its first flight was December 17, 1935.)

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    $\begingroup$ @Farhan - similar, but distinct in that I'm thinking less about production timeframes, than design logevity. That site has some interesting leads, though. (Looks like he deleted his comment; site posted was en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_most-produced_aircraft) $\endgroup$ – Ralph J May 18 '15 at 19:01
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, I deleted my comment as I noticed answers started to come in. So I thought I might not have completely understood the question. $\endgroup$ – Farhan May 18 '15 at 19:59
  • $\begingroup$ There is already an older plane listed, but the PBY Catalina first flew in March 1935 and there are still models being flown. $\endgroup$ – CGCampbell May 18 '15 at 21:51
  • $\begingroup$ If you are asking for airplane you already have answers, if you are looking for aircraft, ballon basic design is unchanged since centuries. That will be your oldest designed aircraft. Airplanes are a little bit more than one century old $\endgroup$ – Trebia Project. May 18 '15 at 22:38
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not sure to fully understand the question. Do replicas count? Are you looking for the oldest aircraft still maintained in flying condition? $\endgroup$ – Manu H May 19 '15 at 12:36

This is a community-wiki mashup of the other answers - I thought a table would be useful

Date         Aircraft       Commercial                        
Introduced   Type           Service (2015)                      

1909         Bleriot XI     Flown by Shuttleworth collection UK, entrance fee.
1932         JU-52          Sight seeing flights by Ju-Air, Switzerland.
1932         Tiger Moth     Flight experiences, e.g. Cheltenham UK.
1934         Dragon Rapide  Sight seeing flights, London.
1935         DC-3           Many commercial flight-experience/other operators.
1935         PBY Catalina   Still used in aerial firefighting role.
1938         Piper Cub      Many still in private/GA use and in flight schools.
1952         B-52           76 still in service with USAF. Projected service to 2045?
1952         Tu-95          In service with Russian air force. Projected service to 2040?
  • $\begingroup$ Might want to add the PBY Catalina on there, as per one of the answers. Same year as the DC 3 and still sees serious use in aerial firefighting. $\endgroup$ – habu May 19 '15 at 14:03
  • $\begingroup$ If including B-52 shouldn't the Tupolev Tu-95 be included as well - first flight 1952 and projected service > 2040 $\endgroup$ – user151019 May 20 '15 at 10:48

If any commercial or military service will do then there are a few designs which are older.

There's a de Havilland Dragon Rapide still in commercial service doing air tours around London, that's first flight was in 1934. The Noorduyn Norseman is still used for air tours and cargo work and it was first flown a month before the DC3. The Ford Trimotor was introduced in 1925 and I think there's still one or two doing tours.

Apart from tours the DC3 is still the one I'd think of as still doing really serious service.


The Shuttleworth Collection, at Old Warden aerodrome in Great Britain, has a flyable Bleriot XI which was built in 1909 and served at a flight school into the Thirties. It is still regularly displayed in flight. You might argue that this is no commercial service, but to witness the display, you need to buy a ticket, and ticket sales help to support the collection. So I enter it as a contender here.

Having flown first in 1932, the Ju-52 is also older than the DC-3 or even the Dragon Rapide. Several are still in commercial service - you can book scheduled sight-seeing flights with the Swiss operator Ju-Air. Ju-Air's three Ju-52 served from 1939 to 1982 in the Swiss Air Force. Wikipedia has an exhaustive list of current Ju-52 operators.

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    $\begingroup$ The CASA license-built Spanish version of the Ju52 was in service with the Spanish air force until 1974 or 75. It was a safe and conveniently slow plane for parachute drop training train. I myself flew many times in it during my military service... $\endgroup$ – xxavier Mar 20 '17 at 17:38

The legendary Piper Cub which was used as a trainer during WWII and first flew in 1938 is still a popular plane and although not by Piper is still made in some form of variants today. I dont think its in service any more (at least as far as I know) but there are still loads of them flying.


The USAF B-52 first flew in 1952, stopped production in 1962, is still a frontline bomber, and is projected to continue service until 2045



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