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11 of the Worst Aircraft Still In Service

Many aircraft have been considered to be the worst aircraft ever. Most of these have stopped flying for good reason, but some are still flying high. So which are the worst aircraft still in service? Read on…

People tend to believe that it’s the airline that operates the aircraft as much as the aircraft itself. Whilst the airline’s service certainly plays a part in how we perceive a certain aircraft, you can’t blame them for everything.

The aircraft itself makes a huge difference. If we are trying to concentrate and the cabin is so loud we can’t read or work, or the seats are a pain in the behind, we perceive an aircraft as being the worst aircraft ever.

Some aircraft are considered bad because they are a pain to accommodate for airports. This is often related to things like getting passengers and cargo in and out in an efficient manner. Others are just plain dangerous, terribly outdated, or both!

Please don’t be offended if you see your favorite aircraft on this list. Some made the list simply due to being outdated, and it doesn’t mean it wasn’t a great craft at some point in history.

worst aircraft

11. Boeing 737-200

Boeing 737 200
Editorial Team Boeing 737 200

Before the 737 MAX was known for being dangerous, there was another 737 that was known for being dangerous. That aircraft was the 737-200, one of only three aircraft to have ever been grounded!

The Boeing 737-200 is also perhaps one of the worst aircraft for many reasons.

Firstly, the 737-200 is extremely dangerous. In fact, it is often considered to be one of the most dangerous aircraft ever built- of the 1095 of these aircraft that were built, 96 of them crashed!

That alone could make it one of the worst aircraft. However, the 737-200 is also one of the noisiest aircraft, even by the standards of the 1960’s!

10. Airbus A340

Airbus A340-600 Cathay Pacific
Editorial Team Airbus A340-600 Cathay Pacific

The A340 isn’t as much dangerous, as it is sluggish.

To many passengers, there is a noticeable sluggishness to the A340. Almost as though the A340 doesn’t have powerful enough engines to get it off the ground.

Airbus A340-300 interior cabin
Editorial Team

Passengers often notice that the A340 takes longer to get airborne and to cruising altitude. This means that passengers are often left “popping” their ears for longer than they would on similar aircraft.

This sluggishness is also seen in the A340’s cruising speed. The A340 has a cruising speed of Mach 0.86, which is noticeably slower than the Mach 0.89 of the Boeing 777 (which often flies similar routes!)

9. Bombardier CRJ-200

Bombardier CRJ 200 Delta
Editorial Team Bombardier CRJ 200 Delta

Bombardier is known for making some aircraft that are amazing like the A220 and Challenger 350. However, the worst among them is the CRJ200.

The CRJ is a regional jet, just as many of Bombardier’s other aircraft have been (the rest being business jets).

However, unlike other regional jets, the CRJ200 is incredibly cramped. The seats are renowned for being almost too small to do any work in. For anyone who’s almost six feet tall, your head will touch the ceiling!

The windows are also incredibly small, which means anyone who suffers from travel sickness or is scared of flying can’t see out of the window to calm themselves down!

8. Tupolev Tu-204

Tupolev Tu 204
Editorial Team Tupolev Tu 204

The Tu-204 was supposed to be Russia’s answer to the 757. But just as with the 757 (more on that one later!) the Tu-204 suffers due to many different reasons.

Tu-204 is known as being one of the worst aircraft for a number of reasons. First of all, the Tu-204 was so badly constructed, that from an engineering point of view, the FAA refused to certify the Tu-204 to fly there!

The Tu-204 is also known for having an unloading issue. The Tu-204 stands so high off the ground that people struggle to get off the aircraft. There are few stairs that have the height to reach the cabin, and few jetways are able to connect with it.

This means that passengers often struggle to get off, which causes many to abstain from using the aircraft.

7. Embraer EMB-120

Embraer EMB-120ER Brasilia
Editorial Team Embraer EMB-120ER Brasilia

Before Embraer made the beloved ERJ and E-jet series, they made the EMB line of airliners. As with many other aircraft lines, some were good, beloved even, and others were terrible!

The worst aircraft among them was by far the turboprop EMB-120. There are several reasons this airliner is considered to be “the worst”, chief among them is its safety record.

Many remember the breakup of a Continental Airways EMB-120 mid-flight, back in 1991. And these aircraft weren’t that old back then. Now, many are approaching 40 years’ of service- that certainly takes its toll!

There’s also the fact that the cabin is noisier than other turboprops of a similar age. In fact, many passengers have realized just how difficult flying on one of these can be- it’s difficult to work or relax!

6. Antonov An-32

Antonov An 32A
Dmitry Antonov An-32A

The Antonov 32 is a classic Russian aircraft. As with many other Russian aircraft, it wasn’t initially meant for passenger travel, in fact, it was meant to be a military transport aircraft for the USSR’s military.

However, after the fall of the USSR in 1991, many Antonov 32’s were located outside of Russia. As a result, they were sold to buy modern, western-built transport aircraft.

This led many small regional airlines to buy these decommissioned Soviet transports, and convert them for airline use. However, the conversions were generally done to a poor quality, both in design and craftsmanship.

To date, the An-32 has been involved in 11 accidents, with at least 403 fatalities (many disappeared never to be seen again).

There’s also the fact that the cabin noise is almost unbearable, due to the lack of noise dampeners that are present on other airliners.

5. Boeing 757-200

Boeing 757 200
Editorial Team Boeing 757-200

I have to say that I love the Boeing 757 in general. The 757-200 is perhaps one of the most iconic Boeing aircraft to ever be made (after the 747!)

Just as with the Tu-204, the 757 suffers from not being able to unload quickly. Many passengers note just how long queues getting on and off the aircraft can be!

And this isn’t an error on the airport’s fault (or even inpatient passengers!) but is the direct result of the aircraft’s design. For a narrow body aircraft, the 757 stands incredibly tall.

This has resulted in special techniques having to be developed by baggage handlers, more akin to how they’d load 747s rather than 737s!

4. Ilyushin Il-96

Cubana Ilyushin Il 96 300
Dmitry Cubana Ilyushin Il-96-300

The Il-96 is known as the Soviet Jumbo Jet. It’s comparable to the 747, A340 and MD-11 in capacity, design and uses.

As with many Russian-made jets, it is woefully behind its western competition.

For starters, the Il-96 is far more sluggish than even the A340 (as mentioned earlier!) The Il-96 takes far longer than even the A340 to take off and reach cruising altitude.

The Il-96 is also far slower than the A340, cruising at Mach 0.84, which is noticeably slower than even the slow A340!

The Il-96 also suffers from what many other Soviet-era airliners suffer from: a lack of proper maintenance. This means that creaks and bangs aren’t uncommon during flight.

There is also the fact that the Soviet-era seats simply aren’t that comfortable. Sure, the casual Russian passenger might not mind them, but western travelers complain of severe back pain even early on in the flight.

3. COMAC ARJ21

COMAC ARJ21 700
Eric Denison COMAC ARJ21-700

China was relatively late to the aviation game. Their first aircraft manufacturer was only established in 2008!

Their first aircraft was the ARJ21, and was designed to help ease China’s dependency of foreign aircraft manufacturers like Airbus and Boeing. (Their next aircraft will be the C919, which will be released in 2021).

The ARJ21 is designed to both look and operate similarly to the MD-80 and MD-90s. In fact, blueprints for the Chinese-made MD-80/90s were used to develop the ARJ21.

The ARJ21, just like the MD-80/90 is outdated. It’s fuel efficiency compared to other aircraft, which led to only 32 being built. The ARJ21 is also noted to be much louder than other, more “modern” aircraft- very similar to the MD-80!

2. Airbus A380

White Airbus A380
Editorial Team White Airbus A380

The A380 is a technological behemoth by almost all metrics. On metrics alone, the A380 would perhaps be considered the best aircraft to ever have existed! Alas, that is not true…

There are several problems stemming from the A380. From an engineering perspective, the aircraft is amazing, if not more so than the 747 (sorry die hard Boeing fans!) However, the problem comes with infrastructure.

Only a handful of airports in the world can accommodate the size and weight of the A380. Many passengers have also noticed that queues for boarding and exiting the aircraft are almost unbearable! Almost 800 people squeezed out of only two doors!

Due to the sheer number of passengers, queues at passport control are also nearly unbearable. Baggage check too is a pain, almost 800 people are trying to get one of 800 bags- what a nightmare!

1. Ilyushin Il-62

Ilyushin Il 62
Editorial Team Ilyushin Il-62

The Ilyushin Il-62 suffers many of the same afflictions that the Il-96 does.

The Il-62 is a much slower aircraft than the Vickers VC-10 (it’s closest western rival, in terms of specifications and design!) On a commercial level, the seats have almost zero comfort, feeling as though you’re sitting on a rock more than an airline seat.

There’s also the poor maintenance, and thus poor safety standard of the Il-62 that makes it truly one of the worst aircraft ever! In fact, it’s not uncommon to hear about Il-62s thrust reversers to blow up.

Then there’s also the point that it’s probably a USSR-espionage design, taken from VC-10. Instead of improving on the design, the Il-62 was made worse in order to not appear as the total result of espionage.

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