2017 in Review: Looking Back at My Highlights of Last Year

2017 in Review: Looking Back at My Highlights of Last Year

With January slowly coming to its end, I finally managed to finish an article taking a look back at what I did aviation-wise in 2017. While I previously posted an article listing my favorite and the most popular posts of last year, this one looks at the year in a bit more detail.

Before continuing, I would like to thank everyone that read KN Aviation in 2017 and everyone that supported me in pursuing this (sometimes crazy) hobby!

Anyways, without further ado, let’s jump into the review.

Miles, Types, Airlines

In 2017, I flew a total of more than 82,000 miles which makes it my second best year ever when it comes to the number of miles flown, just after 2016. The total was spread across 52 flights onboard 27 different airlines and 18 different aircraft types.


2017 flights. (Map generated using Great Circle Mapper.)

Of those, 10 airlines and 4 aircraft types were new for me:

  • New types – MD-88, 737-900ER, Q400, Cessna Grand Caravan
  • New airlines – Thai Lion Air, Indonesia AirAsia, Garuda Indonesia, Island Air, Makani Kai Air, Mokulele Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, ANA Wings, Jeju Air, AirAsia Japan

Sadly, one of the airlines I flew for the first time in 2017 – Island Air – also managed to go out of business later that year.

Expanding My Inaugural Flight ‘Collection’

While I enjoy reviewing “regular” flights a lot, I also love taking the occasional “special” flight here and there. And, while I didn’t get to take any of the farewell flights that happened last year (Eva Air 747, Delta and United 747, etc.), I was lucky enough to be on three inaugurals.

The first of them was the inaugural flight of Air France’s Boeing 787-9 that I took in early January. I was able to take the first of four sightseeing flights the airline organized before the aircraft entered into service on scheduled routes. And, it was an unforgettable flight!

Air France Boeing 787-9 Inaugural

Photo shoot before the first Air France 787-9 sightseeing flight.
Air France Boeing 787-9 Inaugural

A photo perfectly summarizing the atmosphere onboard the inaugural flight.
Air France Boeing 787-9 Inaugural

It was even possible to briefly visit cockpit in-flight.

The other two flights were related to AirAsia with the first one being AirAsia X’s inaugural flight to the United States (Osaka Kansai – Honolulu) and the second one being the very first revenue flight of the “new” AirAsia Japan. While neither of them was as memorable as the Air France flight, they were still fun to be on.

AirAsia X Osaka - Honolulu Inaugural

Tape-cut in celebration of AirAsia X’s inaugural Kansai – Honolulu flight.
AirAsia X Osaka - Honolulu Inaugural

One of the cabin crew members on the inaugural to Honolulu.
AirAsia Japan Inaugural Flight

Boarding AirAsia Japan’s inaugural flight.

An Increased Number of Business and First Class Flights

Perhaps the thing that made flying in 2017 stand out for me the most was the number of flights I was able to take in first and business class.

The first two of those were onboard Delta Air Lines’ domestic first class between Atlanta and Miami, and Miami and Detroit. Both of those were free upgrades thanks to my Delta Gold Medallion status (which comes as a perk with my Japanese Delta Amex Gold card).

Delta Air Lines First Class Seat

Delta Air Lines first class seats.
Delta Air Lines First Class Breakfast

Breakfast on Miami – Detroit flight.

Then, I flew onboard Finnair’s A350 in business class between Helsinki and Bangkok. While I originally booked the flight in economy class, I had the option of bidding for an upgrade before departure – and my bid of 338 EUR (a couple of EUR above the minimum) was accepted.

Finnair A350 Business Class

Finnair A350-900 business class seat.
Finnair A350 Business Class

Breakfast on Helsinki – Bangkok flight.

The other upgrade I paid for was on my flight between Osaka and Honolulu – the AirAsia X inaugural flight to the US. For just 20,000 yen (about 180 dollars), I was able to upgrade my promo fare economy ticket to AirAsia X’s Premium Flatbed business class. As an added bonus, I got to sit next to the airline’s CEO on the flight.

AirAsia X Premium Flatbed

AirAsia X Premium Flatbed business class seats.
AirAsia X Meal

Not-so-business-class business class meal on AirAsia X.

The remaining five flights – three in JAL’s business class and two in Cathay Pacific’s first class were booked using miles. While I booked one of the JAL flights (Busan – Tokyo) using British Airways miles, I used Alaska miles that I bought during a promotion earlier in the year for the other four.

JAL Apex Suite Business Class

JAL’s Apex Suite business class seat.
JAL Business Class Appetizer

Appetizer on Busan – Tokyo flight.
JAL 767 Business Class Seats

JAL 767-300ER business class cabin.

Besides the individual reviews, I also wrote in detail about my 671.87 dollar Cathay Pacific first class experience here.

Cathay Pacific First Class Cabin

Cathay Pacific 777-300ER first class cabin.
Cathay Pacific First Class Breakfast

Cathay Pacific first class breakfast between Hong Kong and Tokyo.

Spotting in Japan: The Usual & Three New Airports

As far as spotting is concerned, I was able to spend a fair bit of time photographing at both airports in Japan as well as in other parts of the world.

In Japan, I visited the two Tokyo airports a couple of times – both to just enjoy the regular traffic and to catch special aircraft.


ANA C3PO Jet at Haneda.
Yakutia Sukhoi SSJ

Yakutia SSJ at Narita.
Singapore Airlines Airbus A350-900

Singapore Airlines A350-900 at Haneda.
Delta Air Lines Airbus A350

Delta Air Lines A350-900 at Narita.

The three aircraft that I was glad to see the most included:

Dubai Air Wing Boeing 747-400

Dubai Air Wing 747-400 at Haneda.
Saudi Arabia Ministry of Finance Boeing 737-900

Saudi Arabian 737-900 at Haneda.
Russian Ministry of Defense Ilyushin Il-96-400

Russian Il-96-400 and Il-96-300 at Haneda.

Besides the, I also went to Yokota Air Base to photograph the Air Force One and its backup plane – arguably the highlight of the 2017 spotting season in Japan.

Air Force One

Air Force One with President Trump onboard.

Early in the year, I also had the chance to spend a couple of days in Sapporo, enjoying its amazing winter scenery giving a backdrop to a fairly interesting stream of traffic. I visited the airport in the north of Japan later in the year again – this time for the annual Chitose Air Festival to take a close look at the soon-to-be-retired JASDF 747-400.

Jin Air Boeing 777-200

Jin Air 777-200ER.
Vanilla Air Airbus A320-200

Vanilla Air A320-200.
JAL Boeing 767-300

JAL 767-300 being de-iced after a snowstorm.
JASDF Boeing 747-400

Japan Air Self Defense Force 747-400.

Finally, I was also able to snap a couple of pictures at three airports that I hadn’t visited previously: Tokyo Chofu, Shizuoka, and Kobe. While they are far from being the busiest airports in Japan, it was still great to get photos with a different-than-usual scenery.

New Central Air Service Dornier Do-228

New Central Airservice Do-228 at Tokyo Chofu airfield.
Fuji Dream Airlines Embraer ERJ-170

Fuji Dream Airlines ERJ-175 departing Shizuoka airport.
Solaseed Air Boeing 737-800

Solaseed Air 737-800 at Kobe airport.

Spotting Around the World

My first spotting session of the year – given that I was in Europe for Christmas and New Year’s – was in Austria rather than in Japan. More specifically, I spend a brief period of time at Vienna airport’s observation deck to get some snowy shots after my arrival from Paris where I went to catch the Air France 787 inaugural.

The above was followed by another day of spotting at Vienna (to catch the first China Airlines A350 flight to the airport) and Bratislava together with Philippe (check out his fun to read, but I-wish-he-updated-it-a-bit-more-frequently blog, The Full Gull).

Vienna Airport in Snow

Austrian ERJ-195.
China Airlines Airbus A350-900

China Airlines A350-900.
Emirates Airbus A380-800

Emirates A380.
Austrian Airlines A320 Retro

Austrian A320 in retro livery.

Then, on my way from Europe back to Japan, I stopped in Bangkok for a day where I went to Don Muang air base for the excellent Children’s Day open base. As an airliner fan, the main draw of the airshow for me is the ability to photograph Don Muang airport’s movements from the airshow venue.

AirAsia Airbus A320NEO

Thai AirAsia A320neo.
Nok Air Dash 8 Q400

Nok Air DHC-8-400.
Thai Air Force Airbus A340-500

Thai Air Force A340-500.

The next big trip took place in March when I went to Miami for a couple of days thanks to a very cheap Delta Air Lines fare. Not only did the trip allow me to fly on Delta’s now-retired 747, but I was also able to photograph a wide variety of traffic from Latin America (among other places in the world) at Miami airport.

Eastern Air Lines Boeing 737-800

Eastern Air Lines 737-800.
Avior Airbus A340-300

Avior A340-300.
Caribbean Airlines Boeing 737-800

Caribbean Airlines 737-800.

And, thanks to a couple of friendly German spotters, I was also able to spend some hours at Fort Lauderdale airport.

Air Transat Airbus A310-300

Air Transat A310-300.
Bahamasair Boeing 737-500

Bahamasair 737-500.
Allegiant MD-83

Allegiant MD-83.

The remaining spotting sessions in the year were fairly short and took place during what were mostly “flying trips.” First, in April, I spent a full day spotting at Istanbul airport and visiting the aviation museum adjacent to it between my flights from Tokyo and to Vienna.

ULS Cargo Airbus A310-300

ULS Airlines Cargo A310-300.
Turkish Airlines Airbus A321

Turkish Airlines A321 in “Discover the potential” livery.
Turkish Airlines Airbus A330-200

Turkish Airlines A330-200 in retro livery.
Saudi Arabian Airlines Airbus A330-300

Saudi Arabian A330-300.
Libyan Airlines Airbus A320-200

Libyan Airlines A320.
Istanbul Airlines Sud Caravelle

Istanbul Airlines Sud Caravelle in the Turkish Air Force Museum.

In June, I spent some hours photographing at Honolulu, Kahului, and Molokai airports in Hawaii during my trip there to catch the inaugural AirAsia X flight to Honolulu and to do some island hopping.

Hawaiian Airlines A330-200

Hawaiian Airlines A330-200 departing Honolulu.
FedEx McDonnell Douglas MD-11

FedEx MD-11F departing Honolulu.
Batik Air Indonesia Boeing 737-MAX8

Batik Indonesia 737 MAX8 departing Honolulu.
Hawaiian Airlines A330-200 Kahului

Hawaiian Airlines A330-200 at Kahului airport.
Transair Boeing 737-200

Transair 737-200 at Kahului airport.
FedEx Cessna Grand Caravan

FedEx Grand Caravan at Molokai.

In September, I rented a car after my arrival in Budapest and spent a couple of hours photographing approaches and (re)visiting the excellent Aeropark Budapest museum before meeting up with my family.

Lufthansa A320neo

Lufthansa A320neo.
Israir Airbus A320-200

Israir A320.
Malev Ilyushin Il-14

Malev Il-14 at Aeropark Budapest.

Finally, in October, I spent some time spotting at Seoul Incheon and Jeju airports in Korea.

Seoul Incheon Airport

Colorful line-up of tails at Seoul Incheon airport.
Korean Air Boeing 777-300

Korean Air 777-300ER in special livery at Seoul Incheon.
UPS McDonnell Douglas MD-11

UPS MD-11F at Seoul Incheon.
Asiana Airlines Boeing 767-300

Asiana Airlines 767-300 departing Jeju.

What Will 2018 Bring?

Looking back at 2017, the highlight was most certainly my spotting trip to Miami. While I thoroughly enjoyed all of the flights I took as well as the other spotting sessions, the Miami trip was the first time in a while for me to dedicate three full days in a row to spotting. And, it allowed me to see many airlines that I never saw before. All in all, it reminded me of how much I enjoy this hobby.

As for 2018, while there are still many unknowns – but, I already have at least two fairly big trips planned. I will embark on the first one during which I will have a chance to fly Qatar Airways’ QSuites for less than 700 dollars in less than a month.

The second one will take place in May when I will fly to Paris – and from there to Toronto and Vancouver. While my planes for the trip are not completely clear yet, I certainly hope to do some spotting in the two cities, as well as to take a seaplane flight in Vancouver. On the way back, I will likely stop by my home in Slovakia.

Other than that, I have a couple of trips on my mind – both to fly on some interesting aircraft as well as to photograph aircraft. I will write more about those once they are booked, though.

So, stay tuned. And, thanks once again for reading KN Aviation!

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