MIAMI – 2020 has been a year like no other for aviation. The industry has gone through mass furloughs, layoffs, aircraft storage and retirement, and passenger numbers are at record lows.

In such an unprecedented year, the Airways team of photographers was able to capture some historic, newsworthy, and plain incredible images. Here are my Top 10 Airways news Photos of 2020!

#10: Retirement of the Hifly A380


A punch in the throat to A380 lovers already saddened by other retirements and groundings of the behemoth aircraft, European charter airline HiFly made a November announcement that they would retire their only A380 at the end of the year.

One of the most unique aircraft in the world, 9H-MIP was painted in an eye catching “Not Too Late for the Coral Reefs” livery in partnership with the Murpuri Foundation. New York based Airways Photographer Misael Ocasio Hernandez was able to capture both sides of the aircraft at JFK. 

#9: Mask Liveries


Many airlines have cleverly painted some of their aircraft in unique liveries painting a face mask on the nose of the aircraft, in order to promote mask wearing.

Airways Photographers Misael Ocasio Hernandez and Luca Flores were able to shoot the Seaborne and Cargolux mask liveries, respectively. Please stay safe and wear a mask this holiday season!

#8: Maleth Aero Airbus A340 


I’m going to keep the Misael Ocasio Hernandez trend going with his capture of the Maleth Aero A340-600. After Virgin Atlantic announced their retirement of the A340 fleet, Maleth Aero leased what was formerly G-VWEB and painted it in a “Thank You NHS” livery, a nod to the NHS’s work of battling COVID-19.

Given the appropriate registration of 9H-PPE, it had recently been painted in a newer “European Cargo” livery when Misael took this photo. Certainly a timely capture and something to marvel over for years into the future!

#7: AN-225 Usage


Usage of the one-of-a-kind Antonov AN-225 was abundant in the earlier half of 2020 as demand for PPE skyrocketed. Again, Misael Ocasio Hernandez was able to capture this amazing photo of her on approach under a gorgeous sky!

#6: Boeing 737 MAX Recertification


After a 20-month hiatus from commercial service, the infamous Boeing 737 MAX is back in the skies flying passengers! During that long period Boeing and the FAA were busy working to fix and recertify the aircraft, using the Boeing 737 MAX 7 testbed for its recertification flights.

Seattle based Airways Photographer Nick Sheeder was able to photograph the aircraft on one of these historic flights in full detail.

#5: Corsair Boeing 747 Retirement


Boeing 747 lovers beware, because these next few on the list are going to hurt. To kick them off at the Number 5 spot is the retirement of the Corsair 747s, in this writer’s opinion some of the best looking in the sky.

Serving Corsair for over 25 years, these Boeing 747s connected Paris Orly to the airline’s myriad of resort destinations. Paris based AirwaysMag Photographer Tony Bordelais captured this amazing photo of F-HSUN taking off from Orly on a snowy day!

#4: Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747 Retirement


For decades the Boeing 747 was a staple and icon of the Virgin Atlantic fleet. They too have joined the 2020 747 Retirement Club, sending all six down the drain. Luckily for three of those six, the drain is Pinal Airpark in Marana, USA where they’ll be given a new life with Atlas Air, staying in passenger configurations.

Andrew Henderson, Airways Photographer and resident Las Vegas planespotter captured this photo of G-VROM nicknamed “Barbarella” touching down at LAS for customs before heading to MZJ. 

#3: KLM Boeing 747 Retirement


KLM had begun the gradual retirement of its Boeing 747-400 models since 2016, and by the time 2020 rolled around there were 8 left. After their March announcement of retirement KLM saved two, PH-BFW and PH-BFY to operate cargo flights from Amsterdam to Shanghai.

The flights an aircraft would come to and end in October. From March to October one by one KLM stripped the aircraft out of any KLM titles and into its base blue and gray colors, and sent them to the graveyard. AirwaysMag Photographer Luca Flores captured PH-BFS departing his home airport of LAX for the last time on March 25.

#2: Boeing 777X First Flight


I may be biased because this is hands down my favorite aircraft, but the beginning of the Boeing 777X’s flying career was definitely a top moment of aviation in 2020.

Since its debut in January, the N779XW and her three other sisters fly around the Puget Sound and Eastern Washington on test flights, readying the aircraft for their eventual commercial service. Nick Sheeder captured this incredible moment as the Boeing 777X taxiied out for her first takeoff in front of hundreds of Boeing employees and photographers. 

#1: Qantas Boeing 747 Retirement and Water Salute


Coming in at the Number 1 spot is the retirement of the Qantas Boeing 747. Already retiring some of its last 747s in 2019, Qantas started 2020 with only 6 747s. One by one they flew QF6001 from Sydney to LAX for customs, then onto the Mojave Air and Space Port just north of Los Angeles.

VH-OEJ, which wore the iconic “Wunala Dreaming” livery was the last Boeing 747 to be shuttled to the desert, and as she taxiied out for her final flight Luca Flores was in a helicopter 1700 feet above snapping photos. As she left the Qantas maintenance pad for the last time employees lined up next to her to wave their goodbyes as two fire trucks doused her in a gorgeous water salute. 


Featured image: HiFly A380. Photo: Misael Ocasio Hernandez/Airways