10 Airplanes You Won't Believe are Still Flying

Dead or alive? Just as with certain celebrities who have been around for so long we might forget whether they're still with us, or not, airplanes of a certain vintage can be hard to keep track of. How many, if any, of a long abandoned design are still flying? Sadly, the answer most often is, "none." But sometimes you get a nice surprise, and thanks to the dedicated work of a few fanatics, a number of rare birds are still taking wing. With that in mind, here's a small collection of airplanes that you probably thought were dead (or at least permanently mounted to a post in the ground) but which happily are still flying up a vintage storm.

Get online content like this delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for our free enewsletter.

10 Airplanes Still Flying Cover
10 Airplanes You Won't Believe Are Still Flying
10stillflying-vulcan-01.jpg
Avro Vulcan
Designed in the 1940s and with its first flight in 1952, the Avro/Hawker Siddeley Vulcan was one of three bombers capable of carrying nuclear bombs and missiles for the Royal Air Force starting in the mid 1950s. Several Vulcan models were made, but the curved leading edge of the big delta wing of the later Vulcan B.2 models made them easy to identify along with the airplane’s signature song-like sound produced by four big Olympus jet engines.RAF/MOD
10stillflying-vulcan-02-2.jpg
Avro Vulcan
The Vulcan was ready to be deployed for potential nuclear missions during the Cold War. However, the only crisis that actually employed the Vulcan in combat was the Falklands War in the early 1980s. Toward the end of the airplane’s active duty life in 1984, a few Vulcans were converted to aerial refueling aircraft.Eric Coeckelberghs and courtesy of Vulcan to the Sky Trust
10stillflying-vulcan-03.jpg
Avro Vulcan
While there are at least three Vulcans still in operational condition, only one is still flying. Vulcan XH558, "The Spirit of Great Britain," has been used for aerial demonstrations since 2007. However, as of this writing, this year will be the last opportunity to see this exciting airplane fly. Vulcan to the Sky has scheduled several air shows around Great Britain during the summer and early fall, a grand tour named Farewell to Flight - 2015. Read about the last chance to see the Vulcan fly here.Eric Coeckelberghs and courtesy of Vulcan to the Sky Trust
10stillflying-kingcobra-01-1.jpg
Bell P-63 Kingcobra
The Bell P-63 Kingcobra was launched in an effort to correct the shortcomings of the Bell Airacobra, an early American World War II fighter often used for low-altitude missions. More than 3,000 were built during World War II.
10stillflying-kingcobra-02.jpg
Bell P-63 Kingcobra
The Kingcobra was undeniably fast, but it didn't offer the range or high-altitude performance the United States needed. The airplane, however, did go on to find success flying in the Soviet air force in World War II.Goshimini via Wikipedia Creative Commons
10stillflying-kingcobra-03.jpg
Bell P-63 Kingcobra
Today only a small handful of Kingcobras remain in airworthy condition. One of those is a rare P-63F model, powered by a 1,425 hp Allison V-1710-135 engine, which is maintained and flown by the Commemorative Air Force in San Marcos, Texas. (Photo credit: Scott Slocum)
10stillflying-starship-01.jpg
Beechcraft Starship
The Beechcraft Starship is one of the fastest twin-turboprop business airplanes ever made, cruising at speeds as fast as 335 knots. With its unusual configuration — pusher props, tall winglets and canard — the Starship looked like the future of aviation when it was introduced in the 1980s by engineering genius Burt Rutan.
10stillflying-starship-02.jpg
Beechcraft Starship
With several issues in the early days of the Starship, the model got a bad reputation for poor reliability, despite the fact that Beechcraft addressed the problems. The unusual shape of the airframe may also have deterred some customers and the program flopped. By 2003, Beechcraft decided to recall and destroy the Starships on the market.Ken Mist via Creative Commons
10stillflying-starship-03.jpg
Beechcraft Starship
Several Starships survived the Beechcraft recall and the current owners love their Starships, not only for their terrific performance but also for the strong design and attention-drawing ramp appeal. At least five privately owned Starships are still flying today.Rod Reilly
10flyingwing-n9m-01.jpg
Northrop N9MB Flying Wing
After Jack Northrop designed the XB-35 — a contender to become a new super bomber for the U.S. — the U.S. military commissioned him to build a one-third scale flying prototype of the airplane. This was the N-9M, of which four were built.
10stillflying-flying-wing-03.jpg
Northrop N9MB Flying Wing
N9MB was the fourth in a series of scaled down models to prove the flying wing concept. As such, the airplane became obsolete once the program itself was set in motion. Three of the four N-9M prototypes were scrapped.Phil Wallick
10stillflying-flying-wing-02.jpg
Northrop N9MB Flying Wing
The Northrop N9MB, the fourth and last of the prototypes, survived and lives today at the Planes of Fame Air Museum in Chino, California. The museum keeps the airplane in flying condition and it can be seen flying at local air shows, including the museum’s own annual Planes of Fame Air Show.cclark395 via Creative Commons
10stillflying-howard500-01.jpg
Howard 500
The Howard 500 was one of the world's original business aircraft. A pressurized, radial-engine twin developed in the late 1950s, the airplane was marketed as an executive transport by famed aircraft designers Dee Howard and Ed Swearingen.
10stillflying-howard500-02.jpg
Howard 500
The Howard 500 probably arrived 10 years too late. Production started in 1963 and ended after only 22 were built as turbine-powered business aircraft like the Gulfstream I turboprop emerged on the scene.Jim Koepnick
10stillflying-howard500-03.jpg
Howard 500
There is only one airworthy Howard 500 flying in the United States, N500HP, wearing distinctive olive drab paint and based at Anoka County Airport in Minnesota. The fuselage art on N500HP depicts a Howard 500 dive-bombing a Gulfstream IV, with the warning "Scram!" emblazoned across the fuselage.Chris Heaton
10stillflying-bleriot-01.jpg
Blériot XI
Designed in the early 1900s by Frenchman Louis Blériot, the Blériot XI became one of the most common production airplanes in the early days of flight and the one that inspired Clyde Cessna to start his own airplane manufacturing company. One reason for its great success was its pioneering flight across the English Channel.
10stillflying-bleriot-02.jpg
Blériot XI
Being such an early design, the Blériot XI was constructed chiefly of wood and fabric, materials that were slowly replaced by stronger metal and eventually composite materials. The open cockpit and fuselage construction was also replaced as aviators demanded protection from the elements, and as powerplants evolved, it didn’t take long before the inverted Y 35-hp Anzani engine appeared ancient.
10stillflying-bleriot-03.jpg
Blériot XI
There are several Blériot XIs still flying, both originals and replicas. Two of the originals are housed at Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome near Red Hook, New York. Only one of the two is still in flying condition. Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome claims it is the oldest flying airplane in the world.Ronaldbeelen via Wikipedia Creative Commons
10stillflying-jetstar-01.jpg
Lockheed JetStar
The Lockheed JetStar was the world's first purpose-built business jet. Powered originally by four turbojet engines and later upgraded to Garret TFE731 turbofans, around 200 JetStars were built between 1957 and 1978.
10stillflying-jetstar-02.jpg
Lockheed JetStar
The JetStar was originally developed by Lockheed for a military contract that never materialized. Lockheed decided to continue the project on its own for the business aircraft market, but the airplane was soon being outclassed by competition from Learjet, Gulfstream, Dassault Falcon, Hawker and Cessna.
10stillflying-jetstar-03.jpg
Lockheed JetStar
Despite the difficulty in procuring parts for the handful of aging JetStars still in service, they continue flying today. That will probably change with the FAA's 2020 ADS-B mandate as the model is essentially regulated out of existence.Shahram Sharifi via Wikipedia Creative Commons
10stillflying-gloster-meteor-01.jpg
Gloster Meteor
The Gloster Meteor was Great Britain's first fighter jet, and the only jet operated in World War II by the Allies. The airplane saw limited combat action in the war, but it proved the invention of England's own Sir Frank Whittle, who came up with the idea for the turbojet engine in the 1930s.
10stillflying-gloster-meteor-02.jpg
Gloster Meteor
Nearly 4,000 Meteors saw service until the airplane was finally retired in 1980. Even by the 1950s the Meteor was being surpassed by newer jet designs with swept wings and more powerful engines.
10stillflying-gloster-meteor-03.jpg
Gloster Meteor
Today five Meteors remain in airworthy condition, four in the UK and one in Australia. They won't be able to remain in flyable condition forever, so if you get the chance to see one at an airshow, consider it a rare treat.Paul Nelhams via Wikipedia Creative Commons
10stillflying-zero-01.jpg
Mitsubishi A6M Zero
For a time, the Japanese Zero was the top carrier-based dogfighter in the world, notching a 12:1 kill ratio in the early days of World War II. With its cantilever wing, sturdy, wide landing gear and enclosed cockpit it was also one of the most modern when introduced in 1940.Kogo via Wikipedia Creative Commons
10stillflying-zero-02.jpg
Mitsubishi A6M Zero
By 1942, the Allies had developed more capable fighters to take on the Zero and learned some of its weaknesses. Though it had tremendous range, it was underpowered. By the end of the war, Zeroes were participating in large numbers of kamikaze suicide missions.
10stillflying-zero-03.png
Mitsubishi A6M Zero
A small handful of flyable Zeroes still exist today, but only one with its original Sakae 950 hp radial engine. The most recent example is a Zero discovered in Papua New Guinea in the 1970s that has been restored by a private individual and is set to fly soon in Japan.
10stillflying-aerocar-01.jpg
Taylor Aerocar
Designed to become the ultimate personal transportation vehicle, the Taylor Aerocar was conceived as an aircraft capable of smoothly transitioning from the air to the road. The Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA — the FAA of that era) certified the Aerocar in 1956 and it is still the only roadable aircraft that has been certified.Ciar via Wikipedia Creative Commons
10stillflying-aerocar-02.jpg
Taylor Aerocar
As is the case with many airplane manufacturers, production became the biggest roadblock for designer Moulton Taylor. Taylor reached a deal with a manufacturer, but it was based on a minimum number of orders that Taylor was unable to reach.Hummel-1961 via Wikipedia Creative Commons
10stillflying-aerocar-03.jpg
Taylor Aerocar
Only a handful of Aerocars were produced and most of them are on display at various museums around the country. Only one is still flying — N102D — owned and flown by the Sweeny family and based at Warbird Adventures in Kissimmee, Florida.Hugh Dodson
10 Cool Airplanes That Will Never Fly Again
10 Cool Airplanes That Will Never Fly Again
Want more? Check out Flying's "10 Cool Airplanes That Will Never Fly Again" for more unique and rare airplanes. Click here to view the list. Or check out our Top 100 Airplanes: Platinum Edition for our list of the best aircraft ever!