N755NW, a 42-year old NWA DC-9-41 Blasts Out of STL.

N755NW, a 42-year old NWA DC-9-41 Blasts Out of STL

Happy New Year! Heck, happy new decade while we’re at it.

With the closing of each year I invest a considerable amount of time in reflection before setting my goals and aspirations for the future. A perennial resolution I have set (and then catastrophically failed to meet) has been to make sense of the ~150K+ PlaneSpotting photos I have amassed since diving into the hobby over the summer of 2009.

While trying to determine what goal – if any – I would set around this, an intriguing question dawned on me. How has PlaneSpotting changed in the past decade? Sure, we didn’t have JetTip, ADSBexchange, or FlightRadar24 to allow for surgical, dare I say lazy, spotting. We just had to show up, maybe listen to ATC, and see what the day would bring. But how has what we might see changed?

Well, I have photographic proof of what aviation looked like at a number of airports over the course of 2010. In retrospect, it was a good travel and spotting year for me. What if, perhaps, I set a mini goal to at the very least look at every photo shot over that one year and highlight particular items of note? I spent a number of hours over the past weekend doing just that. One clear difference? My skill and equipment have come a long way over the past decade! But I digress.

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Click through to join me for a stroll down AvGeek memory lane for a year which proved transformational to the AvGeek world.

Delta and Northwest

N3734B, a 737-800 departs Memphis in October, 2010.

N3734B, a 737-800 departs Memphis in October 2010

Delta was still transitioning away from their early 2000s-era ‘Colors in Motion’ livery. Is that name not familiar? This paint attracted a lot of undue criticism and silly nicknames such as Wavy Gravy, Flowing Fabric, and my personal favorite: Deltaflot, due to the tail’s similarity to that of Russian carrier Aeroflot.

N755NC, DC-9-50 and former NW bird lands in Kansas City, November 2010 wearing updated livery.

N755NC, DC-9-50 and former NW bird lands in Kansas City in November 2010 wearing updated livery

The current-day standard Onward and Upward livery had been announced in 2007 but was slow to roll out. So three years later there still existed a great deal of limited-time-only-liveried Delta birds.

N924XJ, a Northwest CR-9 accompanies some Delta birds in Denver.

N924XJ, a Northwest CRJ-900 accompanies some Delta birds in Denver

The Gem of Georgia was also hard at work integrating Northwest into their operations. Despite the merger closing in late 2008, opportunities to spot Northwest’s various liveries and cool retro planes were still common. I would respectfully submit that the best spotting of 2010 was between the combined Delta and Northwest fleets.

N763NW, a DC-9-41 lines up at St. Louis in September, 2010.

N763NW, a DC-9-41 lines up at St. Louis in September 2010.

N826AY, a Northwest CR-2 climbs out of Memphis in style one afternoon in October, 2010.

N826AY, a Northwest CR-2 climbs out of Memphis in style one afternoon in October 2010

American’s Mad Dogs shined with pride

N76200, an MD-83 pauses at the threshold of Kansas City's 19-L for a quick photo in November of 2010.

N76200, an MD-83 pauses at the threshold of Kansas City’s Runway 19L for a quick photo in November of 2010

There’s not much to report on the PlaneSpotting front for American Airlines in 2010. The ubiquitous Super-80s lived up their name: They were super-everywhere and you’d be hard pressed to visit any airport of significance and not see at least a few. Then, just as in 2019, eagle-eyed plane spotters could still find MD-80s carried over from the TWA buyout in 2001. Sadly, the American Airlines (former TWA) overhaul base at Kansas City International pictured above would be fully shuttered in September 2010.

When it was shined up, that bare metal livery could sure put otherwise great liveries to shame. This photo snapped in St. Louis, September 2010.

When it was shined up, that bare metal livery could sure put otherwise great liveries to shame. This photo was snapped in St. Louis, September 2010.

Continental and United

N75433, a shiny, less than two-years old Boeing 737-900ER spotted in Houston, December, 2010.

N75433, a shiny, less-than-two-years-old Boeing 737-900ER spotted in Houston, December 2010.

N14628, a short and stubby Boeing 737-500 spotted in Houston, December 2010.

N14628, a short and stubby Boeing 737-500 spotted in Houston, December 2010

Isn’t it refreshing to see the word Continental on the Continental livery? Folks will recall that 2010 was the year Continental would be absorbed by United. Much to the chagrin of many a Saul Bass tulip fan, United decided to co-opt Continental’s paint scheme. United swiftly rebranded Continental’s planes, in many cases leaving a bright and shiny new name patch on otherwise weathered paint. It wasn’t a great look.

N768UA, a Boeing 777-200 spotted at Dulles in October, 2010. Complete with mismatched cowling!

N768UA, a Boeing 777-200 spotted at Dulles in October 2010. Complete with mismatched cowling!

N781UA, a Boeing 777-200 in "battle ship" livery spotted at Dulles in October, 2010.

N781UA, a Boeing 777-200 in “battleship” livery spotted at Dulles in October 2010

While Continental’s branding was eliminated with shocking speed, United took their sweet time in repainting their own planes. At the time, their fleet sported at least two legacy liveries: The Blue Tulip, and an older predecessor which would affectionately be referred to as the Battleship livery. Both paint schemes, we should note, incorporated different versions of the Saul Bass tulip. Many reasonably speculated that between the hasty and sloppy process by which Continental’s name was simply painted over, and the slow conversion of United’s fleet, a new livery had to be on the horizon. Who would have thought that it would take almost ten years to come up with something, and that this “something” would be nothing more than a color adjustment?

Republic’s Great Gamble

N818MD, an Embraer ERJ-170 seen at Kansas City in November, 2010.

N818MD, an Embraer ERJ-170 seen at Kansas City in November 2010

N170HQ, an Embraer ERJ-190 seen landing at Kansas City International in November, 2010.

N170HQ, an Embraer ERJ-190 seen landing at Kansas City International in November 2010

In 2009, at the hands of ambitious CEO Bryan Bedford, Republic Airways decided they had what it took to transition from regional operator to full-fledged big-time airline (retroactive spoiler alert – they didn’t.) Republic scooped up Frontier and Midwest for $108 and $75 million, respectively. By 2010, the beautiful and iconic Midwest livery adorned Republic-owned (and operated) Embraer E-Jets. Midwest was essentially dead, with the last 717 flight operated by Midwest employees occurring in 2009.

N175HQ, an Embraer ERJ-190 preparing to leave Kansas City International in November, 2010.

N175HQ, an Embraer ERJ-190 preparing to leave Kansas City International in November 2010

2010 would be the year Republic broke their commitment to keep the Midwest and Frontier brands distinct. Midwest would ultimately consolidate into Frontier. The joint airline was eventually sold off for a paltry $36 million in cash plus assumption of $109 million in debt. One great airline, significant combined market-share, hundreds of jobs, and $38 million in wealth would vaporize at the hands of Republic. But at least we got to see the Midwest and Frontier liveries on Embraers, albeit briefly.

Freight airlines had cool stuff in their fleets too

N429FE, an Airbus A310 named Conner, spotted in Memphis, October, 2010.

N429FE, an Airbus A310 named Conner, spotted in Memphis, October 2010

N267FE, a Boeing 727 named Jolene spotted in Memphis, October, 2010.

N267FE, a Boeing 727 named Jolene, spotted in Memphis, October 2010

FedEx still operated the smoky, loud, and sexy Boeing 727s. Additionally, a few Airbus A310s remained in the fleet. Remember those? They were the stubby small younger brother of the A300. While their final A310 was retired at the start of this year, the A300s still run to this day. Spot them while you still can; the 68 or so remaining are due to be fully retired by some point in 2021.

N713AA, a Boeing 727 seen in St. Louis, September, 2010.

N713AA, a Boeing 727 seen in St. Louis, September 2010

Speaking of the 727, let’s not forget Capital Cargo International. Despite a tiny slice of Cappy’s 11-plane fleet being 727s, they sure got around. This carrier eventually merged with ATI and with that, their 727s were allowed to retire.

Many of 2010’s airlines no longer exist

N937SP, a Pilatus PC-12 spotted in Memphis, October, 2010.

N937SP, a Pilatus PC-12 spotted in Memphis, October 2010

Of all the three essential air service (EAS) carriers I sampled in 2010, Seaport was my favorite. They flew Pilatus PC-12s which were unique and comfortable given their small size. Additionally, what AvGeek could pass up MCI-HRO-MEM routing for $155 one-way? Sadly Seaport ceased operations in September 2016.

N240GL, a Beech 1900D in Kansas City, March 2010.

N240GL, a Beech 1900D in Kansas City, March 2010

Flying Great Lakes was not only my first EAS experience, but the first propeller-driven aircraft I was old enough to remember flying. And dang it was fun. They loved their Beech 1900s and Embraer EMB-120s. The Cheyenne, WY-based airline concluded service in March 2018.

N991AT, a Boeing 717 spotted in St Louis, September 2010.

N991AT, a Boeing 717 spotted in St Louis, September 2010

The rebirth of ValuJet was not only alive but thriving, thanks in part due to their (then) shiny new fleet of MD-95, er, Boeing 717s. As we know, AirTran was destined to ultimately pair up with Southwest, but in 2010 they weren’t quite done giving everyone a run for their money.

BONUS: So Long, Citrus! A Look at AirTran’s History and Final Flight Experience

N264AV, an Airbus A320 spotted in St. Louis in September, 2010.

N264AV, an Airbus A320 spotted in St. Louis in September 2010

USA3000 is one of the airlines that got away from me. And by that, I mean I fully intended to try them out but they stopped flying before I could get around to it. While they existed for over a decade, they had trouble growing and just couldn’t make it work. Their two planes went to Viva Colombia.

N202SR, a Saab 340B at Dulles in October, 2010.

N202SR, a Saab 340B at Dulles in October 2010

Aside from a delightfully appealing house livery, perhaps the best thing Colgan will be remembered for is the devastating crash of Continental Flight 3407. There is a silver lining here. The investigation and resulting regulations (passed in 2010) directly led to incredible advancements in aviation safety.

Planes destined to become museum pieces were still flying

N300SW, the first Boeing 737-300 named Spirit of Kittyhawk. It is now a museum piece.

N300SW, the first Boeing 737-300 named Spirit of Kittyhawk seen in Kansas City, November 2010. It is now a museum piece.

BONUS: I proposed to my AvGeek wife under this plane

N300SW was the first 737-300 delivered by Boeing. It went to launch customer Southwest Airlines. This plane and one other were assigned nose decals dubbing them each the Spirit of Kittyhawk. It is now at the Frontiers of Flight Museum near Dallas Love Field. Visitors to the museum can go onboard to learn about Southwest’s history and even see one of Herb Kelleher’s Harley Davidson motorcycles in the back.

N675MC, a McDonnell Douglas DC-9-50. It is now a museum piece.

N675MC, a McDonnell Douglas DC-9-50 seen in Memphis, December 2010. It is now a museum piece.

BONUS: Exploring the Newly Renovated Delta Flight Museum

N675MC is now a part of the Delta Museum collection in Atlanta, Georgia.

Other cool things you might have seen while PlaneSpotting in 2010

Summary

Thanks for joining me for a photo tour of PlaneSpotting in 2010. Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back everything is different? This list certainly is not comprehensive. However it does represent the items which stuck out to me as being unique or different compared to present-day.

We want to hear from you in the comments! Did I miss any 2010 items you are particularly nostalgic for? What are your favorite aviation memories from 2010? Would you like to see more of the retrospective type posts like this?

SENIOR CORRESPONDENT - LEE'S SUMMIT, MO. JL joined AirlineReporter in 2012 and has since become one of our most tenured and prolific writers. His passions include catalyzing AvGeek passion in others, spending too much time on Twitter, and frequent travel. While he's always looking for the next big adventure, home is with his growing AvGeek family in Lee’s Summit, MO, a suburb of Kansas City. Email: [email protected]

http://www.airlinereporter.com
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7 Comments

Great read! Very nicely done. Thanks!

Paul in Minneapolis

Due to the Delta/Northwest merger previously, there were already fewer 747s flying in and out of MSP by 2009, 2010. (I’m not an airline employee, just an airline enthusiast. Also, I’m going by my memory). However, I still enjoyed seeing the 747s distinct silhouette in the local skies. Even better yet, hearing them overhead as they became rarer. Today, I hear larger Airbus’s going overhead as I live below one of their flight paths and guess where they are going in Europe or Asia. Also, I’m a bit leery of getting on anything which is newly designed Boeing, something I didn’t imagine even a year (plus) ago due to the 737 Max crashes, although those aircraft have been pulled for the foreseeable future As more news is revealed, Boeing used to mean quality (excellent design, great management, quality control, etc). That’s all I’ll say about Boeing now. I would still get on their older aircraft. Yet it’s a shame where Boeing has gone. Anyway, I enjoyed reading all of the article and viewing the photos. Also thank you.

Thank you for reading and for taking the time to leave a thoughtful comment, Paul.

Chris Miller

We find our best photo albums are made three+ years after they were shot. The significance of the photo cements itself with a little time. Thanks for the throwback to some great interesting liveries.

Bravo JL. Well done.

Good story JL. You can tell a lot about airplanes from their registration. The N755NC DC-9–the NC is from North Central. Yes, that’s before Republic, Northwest, and then Delta. Very old. My guess about the Capital Air Cargo 727–ending in AA used to be an American Airlines 727. The Air Tran 717/MD-95–those are still flying under Detla. Just look for any 717 with an AT at the end.

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