2023 in Review: Looking Back at My Highlights of Last Year

With 2024 here, it’s time to look back at what I did, aviation-wise, in 2023. You can check my previous annual reviews here: 20162017201820192020, 2021, and 2022.

I mainly write these to have something to return to in the future and remember some of the aviation-related activities I did. That said, I hope you enjoy reading through it, seeing the photos, and checking out some of the articles I wrote earlier in the year that I link out to from here.

Before continuing with the review itself, I’d like to wish you all the best in 2024 and thank you for reading this blog. I’d also like to thank my family and friends for supporting me (not only) in this hobby and in growing KN Aviation.

Buffalo Airways
Seeing active C-46s and Electras was certainly one of my main 2023 highlights.

Miles, Types, Airlines

In 2023, I flew a total of 52,058 miles spread across 40 flights.

While nowhere near the volume of flying I did before the pandemic, it was about 8,000 miles and 9 flights more than I logged in 2022. Also, with COVID-19 in the rearview mirror, it was the first year since 2019 when I didn’t have to take any PCR tests or fill out any COVID-19-related “passenger locator forms.”

Another thing that made 2023 stand out was that almost half of the total distance I flew together with my wife and daughter. That included my daughter’s very first flight at six months old, from then until she was just over a year old, and a trip my wife and I did to Fukuoka to see a play.

2023 Japan Domestic Flights
Japanese domestic flights I took in 2023.(Maps generated using Great Circle Mapper)
2023 Flights with Daughter
Flights I took together with my daughter and wife in 2023.
2023 International Flights
Other international flights I took in 2023.

With eight flights, ANA was the airline I flew the most in 2023. Air Tindi and EVA Air ranked after ANA with four flights on each. I flew on six airlines for the first time: Aeroexpress Regional, Air Canada Express, EVA Air, Fuji Dream Airlines, TAROM, and WestJet.

As for aircraft types, the most common one in my logbook in 2023 was Boeing 787-9 with nine flights (11 total on the 787 with an additional flight on each the 787-8 and 787-10). The second most common type in my logbook for 2023 was Boeing 737-800 with five flights. Aircraft types I flew for the first time in 2023 included Airbus A320neo, ATR 72-600, Boeing 787-10, de Havilland Canada DHC-7, Embraer EMB120, and E175.

EVA Air
EVA Air was one of the airlines I tried for the first time in 2023.
Austrian A320neo
At long last, I also finally had a chance to fly on the A320neo for the first time.

My Daughter’s First Flights

As mentioned in an article I wrote about my favorite flights of 2023, by far the biggest highlight of the year for me was being able to take my daughter on her first flight. My daughter being born last December was life-changing for me and I couldn’t wait to be able to travel with her.

When she turned six months old, we went on a short domestic family trip to Osaka and Kochi. That trip included my daughter’s first three flights – an ANA 777-200ER flight from Tokyo Haneda to Osaka, an ANA Wings Dash 8 Q400 flight on to Kochi, and a Jetstar Japan A320-200 flight back to Tokyo Narita.

Flying in Japan with a Baby
My daughter’s first flight.

Then, in the fall, we went on a month-long trip to Europe, mostly staying at my parents’ house. Needless to say, they were excited about living with their granddaughter for a few weeks. We flew EVA Air from Tokyo Narita to Vienna via Taipei Taoyuan both ways.

Lastly, in December, we visited my family in Slovakia once again, albeit just for a week. We flew LOT from Tokyo to Vienna via Warsaw and back from Budapest to Seoul. Then we took a Jeju Air flight to Shizuoka and went directly to my wife’s parents’ place where we will be staying until the end of this week.

Throughout the 11 flights we took with our daughter, it was great seeing her become better and better at air travel. Even the 14-hour flight from Tokyo to Warsaw went more or less as smoothly as it would have if I was traveling alone or just with my wife.

I was very happy when one of the flight attendants said to me “She’s such a calm and positive baby” when my daughter kept observing and smiling at her during one of the meal services. It was also great being seated around passengers who didn’t seem to mind sitting next to a baby. That culminated in a passenger sitting next to us on the Jeju Air flight who even played peekaboo in Korean with our daughter.

Daughter'r First Time in Europe
While the first long-haul with my daughter was difficult, the three after that were all smooth.

Hunting Rare Prop Aircraft in Canada and Europe

Aviation-wise, the highlight of the year for me was a pair of trips I took to fly and photograph rare propellor aircraft.

The first of those trips took me to Yellowknife in Canada which is home to Buffalo Airways made famous through the Ice Pilots NWT TV show and Air Tindi.

While it is not possible to fly on aircraft of the former, I was able to spend a couple of days on the airline’s ramp photographing (not only) its fleet full of rare props including the Curtiss C-46, Lockheed Electra, and Douglas DC-3. Seeing all of those aircraft in action felt surreal.

I was also fortunate enough to have a chance to take two flights on Air Tindi’s Dash 7 – a quad prop that is very rare nowadays. Flying on the aircraft was exciting but it was even more amazing seeing the crucial role the type plays in bringing supplies to communities accessible only through gravel runways.

Buffalo Airways C-46 at Yellowknife Airport
It was incredible seeing the Buffalo Airways C-46 in action.
Buffalo Airways DC-3
A Buffalo Airways DC-3 taxiing for departure with Buffalo Joe in the cockpit.
Air Tindi Dash 7 Tli Cho Air
Seeing and flying on the Air Tindi Dash 7 was an unforgettable experience.

The second trip was a quick one-night side trip to Romania during our stay in Europe in the fall. The trip only had one purpose – flying on Aeroexpress Regional’s Embraer EMB-120 flight between Cluj-Napoca and Budapest.

While in the past the EMB-120 was quite common, nowadays it is very rare and so I was happy to be able to finally log it.

Aeroexpress Regional EMB-120
While there’s numerous Embraer jet flights in my log book, this was my first Embraer prop flight.

Flying on a New Pokemon Jet and Finally Trying Fuji Dream Airlines

In 2023, three Pokemon-themed liveries saw the light of the day. Two of those – a 787-9 and a 777-300ER – operate on ANA’s international flights. One of those – a 737-800 – is in Solaseed Air’s fleet. While I haven’t flown on the two ANA aircraft yet, I had a chance to be on Solaseed Air’s Nassy Jet (Nassy is Japanese for the Pokemon Exeggutor) inaugural flight back in March.

I flew on the aircraft from Tokyo Haneda to Naha via Miyazaki. While the first leg to Miyazaki was the “real” inaugural flight, the second leg from Miyazaki where Solaseed Air is headquartered to Naha was the official inaugural flight.

I took no other inaugural or farewell flights in 2023.

Solaseed Air Nassy (Exeggutor) Jet Inaugural Flight Ribbon Cut
A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held in Miyazaki before the livery’s official inaugural.
Solaseed Air Nassy (Exeggutor) Jet Inaugural Flight
Exeggutor and Nassy Jet in Miyazaki.

That said, I finally took the time to fly on an airline that intrigued me for quite a while – Fuji Dream Airlines.

The airline commenced operations in 2009 with routes out of its home airport (Mt. Fuji Shizuoka Airport). Over time, it managed to carve itself out a niche, operating flights out of not only Shizuoka but also Nagoya Komaki and other regional airports using a fleet of 16 E170s and E175s.

On my trip, I flew with Fuji Dream Airlines from Shizuoka to Sapporo Okadama and then from Fukuoka to Shizuoka. I really enjoyed both flights thanks to the airline’s “fun factor” (all of its aircraft are in a different color) and nice service which included green tea and a snack.

I flew with ANA and Starflyer from Sapporo to Fukuoka via Nagoya. That gave me a chance to try some of the relatively new Priority Pass facilities at Nagoya Chubu including an outdoor bath with a view of aircraft.

Fuji Dream Airlines E175 Approaching Okadama
Approaching Sapporo Okadama on a Fuji Dream Airlines E175.

Trying Some New International Products

In addition to the above, I also had a chance to try and review a number of products I haven’t before. Most of those were economy class, including the below:

In addition, I tried WestJet 737-700 domestic business class and Finnair A320 and A350 business class. While I flew on the airline’s A350 in business class before, last year was my first time flying in its new AirLounge seat.

WestJet Boeing 787 Economy Class Cabin
WestJet’s 787 was one of the aircraft I enjoyed flying for the first time in 2023.
Finnair A350 AirLounge Business Class Seat in Bed Mode
While I didn’t find the AirLounge seat to be revolutionary, it still definitely provided for an extremely comfortable ride to Tokyo.

Plane Spotting in Japan

As for plane spotting, I went to Tokyo Haneda a few times throughout the year.

It was great to be able to photograph not only the new (and old) special liveries that make the Japanese skies more colorful like ANA’s Pokemon Jets and JAL’s Disney Jets but to also see increasingly more international airlines returning and launching flights to the airport.

Among others, it was nice to photograph the first Virgin Australia flight from Cairns to Tokyo Haneda. I still cannot believe the airline deployed the 737-700s on the long flights in the beginning. Not that the current 737-8 is much better.

Separately, I was also happy to catch one of Air Canada Cargo’s 767s making a stop at Haneda on its way to get maintenance done.

ANA Pokemon 787
In 2023, it was great seeing ANA reintroduce Pokemon Jets to its fleet.
JAL Disney 40th
JAL’s special livery celebrating Tokyo Disney Resort’s 40th anniversary.
Virgin Australia in Tokyo
Virgin Australia is one of the airlines that launched flights to Tokyo in 2023.
Air Canada Cargo 767 in Tokyo
Air Canada Cargo 767 departing Tokyo Haneda.

I didn’t visit the other major Tokyo airport – Narita – nearly as often.

In fact, I only spent a considerable amount of time spotting at the airport on one day. I also took some more photos at Tokyo Narita here and there when I was at the airport to either fly myself or pick someone up.

Without a doubt the highlight for me these days when visiting Narita is the ability to see a decent number of 747, albeit all freighters. I was also happy to photograph LOT Polish Airlines’ 787 in its special “Independence” livery before getting onboard and flying to Warsaw.

El Al 787
El Al launched flights to Tokyo in 2023 before suspending them due to the ongoing geopolitical situation.
Cargolux Italia 747
While no passenger 747s serve Narita anymore, there are still plenty of cargo 747s to see.
LOT 787 Independence Livery
LOT 787 in a special livery – shortly after I took this photo, we boarded the plane and flew to Warsaw.

Outside Tokyo, I did a day trip to Osaka Itami Airport back in January which gave me one of my last chances to see J-Air’s E190 in the now-gone Universal Studios Japan livery.

I was also able to spend some time spotting at Nagoya Chubu Airport and Fukuoka Airport during my trip to fly Fuji Dream Airlines.

While I didn’t see anything overly exciting at Fukuoka Airport, it was still nice to spend a couple of hours next to the approach path. At Nagoya Chubu Airport, I was lucky to see multiple special liveries including JAL’s 787-9 in oneworld alliance colors, Solaseed Air’s Nassy Jet, and both Japan TransOcean Air Jimbei Jets.

Lastly, I was also able to snap a photo of a J-Air E190 at Miyazaki Airport between the two Solaseed Air Nassy Jet flights I took back to back, and take a few photos at Sapporo New Chitose, Sapporo Okadama, Shizuoka, and Osaka Kansai. I visited the last of those to tour the amazing Orbis MD-10

J-Air USJ E190
J-Air’s Universal Studios Japan-themed E190 landing at Itami Airport.
JAL 787 Oneworld
JAL’s 787 in the oneworld alliance livery at Nagoya Chubu Airport.
JTA Jinbei Jets
Japan TransOcean Air’s Jinbei Jets.
J-Air
J-Air E190 at Miyazaki Airport.
Fukuoka Airport
Fukuoka Airport action.
Orbis MD-10
The unmistakable tail of the Orbis MD-10.

Plane Spotting Around the World

Outside Japan, there were two plane spotting highlights for me.

The first was being able to spend a few days in Yellowknife.

While the main purpose was to, as I already wrote earlier in this article, see Buffalo Airways and Air Tindi aircraft, I was also able to photograph many more interesting ones. Just to mention a few, I was able to see an Air Nolinor 737-200 a number of times throughout my stay, a Northwestern Air Jetstream, and Canadian North 737-400s.

Nolinor 737-200
Nolinor 737-200 taxiing at Yellowknife Airport.
Northwestern Air
Jetstream – an aircraft type I hope to add to my log book at some point in the future.
Canadian North 737-400
Canadian North 737-400 at Yellowknife Airport.

The second highlight was visiting the Slovak International Air Fest (SIAF) airshow at Malacky Air Base in Slovakia.

While I am not too much into military aviation, the Slovak Government did an excellent fly-by (both formation and one-by-one) of its an A319 and a F100. I long wanted to see this performance and was excited to finally check it off my list – especially so given the great weather.

Slovak Government F100 and A319 Fly-By
Exciting formation fly-by of the Slovak Government F100 and A319.
Slovak Government A319
The formation fly-by was followed by solo fly-bys of the A319…
Slovak Government F100
…and F100.

Other than that, I had a chance to spend some time around Calgary Airport’s perimeter before taking my flight to Yellowknife and see some rare aircraft parked there. I also was able to take a photo of a WestJet 737 in Edmonton before catching a flight to Calgary on my way back from Yellowknife.

Lastly, I was able to take a couple of night photos in Warsaw before catching a flight to Vienna. The one that I was happy about the most was an Air France A220. I really like the aircraft’s design!

CHINARE BT-67 and Canadian North 737-700 at Calgary Airport
CHINARE BT-67 and Canadian North 737-700 at Calgary Airport.
TUM AeroCarga CRJ-200 at Calgary Airport
TUM AeroCarga CRJ-200 at Calgary Airport.
WestJet 737
A WestJet 737 taxiing after arrival in Edmonton.
Air France A220
Air France A220 at Warsaw Airport.

What Are the Plans for 2024?

First of all, as you might have noticed, in the last couple of months I started more actively posting new content on KN Aviation and also started covering select news again. I hope to continue with this throughout 2024 and beyond.

In terms of travel, I have two trips booked so far:

  • A (long) day trip to South Korea: The main goal of this trip is to review the relatively new Delta Sky Club at Tokyo Haneda Airport before catching a Korean Air 737-8 flight to Seoul Incheon. On the way back, I will fly on Korean Air’s A321neo. I am also considering doing a quick trip to Jeju and back to fly on the world’s last non-ER 767-300, which Asiana operates, and to try the A220 for the first time.
  • A safari trip with my dad: One of the few non-aviation-related travel bucket list items I have is going on a safari. I finally decided to check that off the list and plan a trip to South Africa together with my dad. I booked us business class tickets on Swiss, South African Airways, and Ethiopian Airlines using ANA miles and domestic flights to and from Nelspruit on Airlink. As we will be starting the trip in Europe, I still need to figure out how to get there. Currently, I am looking at potentially flying MIAT via Ulanbatoor on the way there.

While the above are the trips that I already have booked at least partially, there are a couple more trips I plan to take. Those include a trip or two to Europe together with my daughter and wife, one or two more aviation review trips, and a domestic spotting trip or two.

What exactly the list of trips and flights for 2024 is going to end up looking like, we will have to wait and see.

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