Watch a plane get put together in a few minutes in our favorite time-lapse videos

Time-lapse videos are fun to watch. They turn a lengthy situation – say, a blooming flower or a skyscraper construction – into a short video that’s easily digestible. Time-lapse videos are typically created by combining hundreds of sequential photos, taken in duration and usually with a stationary camera. Once a complex and laborious process, it’s now easy to create time-lapses using the newest smartphones, cameras, and camcorders.

Which is why we love these plane and air travel-related videos. We would never actually want to watch a plane being repainted or someone’s journey from Singapore to New York, but ramp up the process from hours and days to a minute, and we’ll gladly tune in. Here are some of our favorites.

Building a Boeing 787

The 787 is Boeing’s most high-tech airplane, built with composite materials. In this 3-minute time-lapse video from Air Canada and Boeing, you can watch the entire construction of one of Air Canada’s 787s, from delivery to final assembly and delivery.

Also, check out the videos for United (below) and Virgin Atlantic’s 787s (at the top).

Putting together the Airbus A380

Like the 787, there is a time-lapse for the Airbus A380 as well. As the world’s largest passenger plane, the video, which combines time-lapse images with regular video, shows what it takes to assemble this giant aircraft. The plane shown in the 50th A380 ever made, which went to the aircraft’s largest operator, Emirates. Check out the installation of lavatory showers at the 1:27-minute mark.

Fresh coat of paint

When Virgin Atlantic updated its livery, it shot a time-lapse video documenting the repainting one of its 747 jumbos. The video is show from various angles, and while it’s less than four minutes, the process took 15 days to shoot.

As U.S. Airways transitions into the American Airlines brand, that means repainting more than 300 aircrafts. Watch this Airbus A319 get a new look.

Turning plane landings into light show

Unless you’re an avid plane spotter, you may find plane takeoffs and landings to be fairly mundane. Photographer Milton Tan was given special clearance to restricted areas of Singapore’s Changi Airport to photograph plane activity at night. What resulted is this incredibly colorful time-lapse video of planes leaving and arriving – and just how busy a major airport can get.

Reconfiguring a plane

To get that new-plane smell, sometimes all you need is a reconfigured interior. When Qantas updated a 747 with its latest seats, it created this time-lapse that shows how an airline goes about in removing and installing them.

Flying from San Francisco to Paris

You can find plenty of in-flight videos on YouTube, where passengers record their journey from departure to arrival. What we love about Vimeo user Nate Bolt’s two-minute time-lapse of his flight from San Francisco to Paris are the moments where he freezes on interesting points along the way, and the Northern Lights and the starry night sky he was able to capture. During the 5,576-mile flight, he shot 2,459 photos on his Canon EOS 5D Mark II.

Another awesome time-lapse view is this flight from San Francisco to Tokyo, shot on a GoPro. While the entire video is less than 1.5-minutes long, jump to the 40-second mark to see the planet Venus appear as the sun rises.

Nothing but Airbus

Airbus has a collection of time-lapse videos, ranging from painting and ramp check to final assembly. Check out this video of not a plane, but the construction of a massive assembly hall that builds Airbus’ A350 next-gen aircraft.


What air traffic control sees

This cool time-lapse from air traffic controller NATS doesn’t show any freshly painted planes. Instead, it shows just how crowded the skies are over the U.K. during a 24-hour period. NATS turned the 6,000 daily flights it monitors around U.K. airspace – 3,500 of them in and out of London-area airports – into a spectacular visual experience.

NATS also has a video showing the air traffic across Europe.

Shoot your own in-flight time-lapse

Photographer Peter West Carey provides instructions and tips on how to shoot a time-lapse video while on an airplane, using an iPhone. While the iPhone’s time-lapse function is simple to operate, Carey provides tips on where to sit, what to look for, and what to avoid. Watch this time-lapse he recorded during a flight from Seattle to Los Angeles.

Space shuttle Endeavour’s last ride

The space shuttle may no longer be in service, but its allure will be talked about for generations. After its final space mission, space shuttle Endeavour made its last trip, to the California Science Center museum in Los Angeles – piggybacking off a modified 747. This time-lapse shows how NASA lifted the shuttle onto the plane, which still seems like an impossible feat today. (The Los Angeles Times has a great time-lapse video showing how Endeavour traveled the streets of L.A. to its new home.)

Turnaround time

As the world’s busiest airport, Heathrow sees a lot of planes – 1,296 a day. The airport recorded this time-lapse video showing the turnaround time of a plane. A plane oftentimes spends no longer than two hours before it takes off again.

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