Boeing 747SP is a version of the
Boeing 747 jet airliner which was
designed for ultra-long-range flights. The SP stands for "Special
Performance". The 747SP is similar to the 747-100 except for the
shortened fuselage, larger tailplane, and simplified trailing edge
flaps. The weight saved by the shorter fuselage permits longer range
and increased speed relative to other 747 configurations at the
Known during development as the short-body 747SB, the 747SP was
designed to meet a 1973 joint request from Pan American World Airways
Iran Air, who were looking for a high-capacity airliner with
sufficient range to cover Pan Am's New York–Middle Eastern routes
Iran Air's planned Tehran–New York route. The aircraft also was
intended to provide
Boeing with a mid-size wide-body airliner to
compete with existing trijet airliners.
The 747SP first entered service with
Pan Am in 1976. The aircraft was
later acquired by VIP and government customers. While in service, the
747SP set several aeronautical performance records, but sales did not
meet the expected 200 units, and production ultimately totaled 45
3.2 Current operators
3.3 Aircraft on display
3.4 Former operators
5 Incidents and accidents
7 See also
9 Further reading
10 External links
The idea for the 747SP came from a request by
Pan Am for a 747 variant
capable of carrying a full payload non-stop on its longest route
between New York and Tehran. Joined with Pan Am's request was Iran
Air; their joint interest was for a high capacity airliner capable of
covering Pan Am's New York–Middle Eastern routes and
planned New York-Tehran route. (New York to Tehran may have been
the longest non-stop commercial flight in the world for a short time,
Pan Am started Tehran to New York in mid-1976.) The aircraft was
launched with Pan Am's first order in 1973 and the first example
delivered in 1976.
A shorter derivative of the 747-100, the SP was developed to target
two market requirements. The first was a need to compete with the
DC-10 and L-1011 while maintaining commonality with the 747, which
in its standard form was too large for many routes. Until the arrival
of the 767,
Boeing lacked a mid-sized wide-body to compete in this
segment. The second market requirement was an aircraft suitable for
the ultra-long-range routes emerging in the mid-1970s following the
joint request. These routes needed not only longer range, but also
higher cruising speeds.
Boeing could not afford to develop an all-new
design, instead opting to shorten the 747 and optimize it for speed
and range, at the expense of capacity.
Originally designated 747SB for "short body", it later was nicknamed
"Sutter's balloon" by employees after 747 chief engineer Joe
Boeing later changed the production designation to 747SP
for "special performance", reflecting the aircraft's greater range and
higher cruising speed. Production of the 747SP ran from 1976 to
1983. However, a VIP order for the Royal Flight of
Abu Dhabi led
Boeing to produce one last SP in 1987.
Pan Am was the launch customer
for the 747SP, taking the first delivery, Clipper Freedom, on March 5,
The 747SP was the longest-range airliner available until the 747-400
entered service in 1989. Despite its technical achievements, the SP
never sold as well as
Boeing hoped. Increased fuel prices in the
mid-1970s to early 1980s, the SP's heavy wings, expensive cost,
reduced capacity, and the increased ranges of forthcoming airliners
were some of the many factors that contributed to its low sales. Only
45 were built and of those remaining, most are used by operators in
the Middle East. However, some of the engineering work on the 747SP
was reused with the development of the 747-300 and 747-400. In the
747SP, the upper deck begins over the section of fuselage that
contains the wingbox, not ahead of the wingbox (as is the case with
the 747-100 and 747-200). This same design was used in the 747-300 and
newer, resulting in a stretched upper deck.
A special 747SP is the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared
Astronomy (SOFIA) astronomical observatory, which had its airframe
modified to carry a 2.5-meter-diameter reflecting telescope to high
altitude, above 99.9% of the light-absorbing water vapor in the
atmosphere. The telescope and its detectors cover a wide wavelength
range from the near infrared to the sub-millimeter region; no window
material is transparent over this whole range, so the observations are
made through a 13 ft (3.96 m) square hole in the port upper
quarter of the rear fuselage, aft of a new pressure bulkhead. A
sliding door covers the aperture when the telescope is not in use.
Astronomers take data and control the instrument from within the
normally pressurised cabin. Originally delivered to
Pan Am and titled
NASA has the name displayed in
Pan Am script on
Apart from having a significantly shorter fuselage and one fewer cabin
door per side, the 747SP differs from other 747 variants in having
simplified flaps and a taller vertical tail to counteract the
decrease in yaw moment-arm from the shortened fuselage. The 747SP uses
single-piece flaps on the trailing edges, rather than the smaller
triple-slotted flaps of standard 747s.
The SP could accommodate 230 passengers in a 3-class cabin or 331 in a
(303 economy, 28 business) 2-class cabin, and a maximum of 400
passengers in one class.
Iran Air 747SP at
London Heathrow Airport
London Heathrow Airport in 1992
Luxair 747SP at Zurich in 1981
Forty-five 747SP aircraft were built between 1974 and 1989 with two
more planned but never constructed.[verification needed] The
production line was ended in 1982 but reopened in 1987 to fulfill an
order for the United Arab Emirates.
As of December 2016[update], there were 10
Boeing 747SPs still in
active service with 9 more stored and 1 preserved. The remaining 21
were either scrapped, otherwise destroyed or
abandoned.[verification needed] In 2016, the last 747SP in
commercial service was withdrawn from service after 40 years by Iran
Air. As of 2017[update], the majority of the ten aircraft
still in service are used for governmental or VIP transport.
2 Government of
Saudi Arabia (painted in
2 Pratt & Whitney Canada (used as an engine testbed)
1 Pratt & Whitney
Ernest Angley Ministries
NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center
1 Government of Bahrain
1 Government of Oman
1 Government of Qatar
2 Las Vegas Sands
1 NASA/DLR (used as the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared
Aircraft on display
South African Airways
South African Airways 747SP nicknamed "Maluti" is on static
Rand Airport in South Africa, where it is maintained by the
South African Airways
South African Airways Museum Society.
Qantas 747SP, the first 747SP to land at Wellington International
Airport, New Zealand in 1981.
The 747SP used as the
NASA Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared
Saudi Royal Flight
Boeing 747 SP
Bahrain Royal Flight
This list also includes organizations that used the aircraft
temporarily, besides main operators.
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Royal Air Maroc
South African Airways
Braniff International Airlines
Global Peace Ambassadors
Pan American World Airways
Trans World Airlines
Brunei Government Sultan's Flight
Middle East Airlines
People's Republic of China
Civil Aviation Administration of China
Republic of China
United Arab Emirates
Abu Dhabi Amiri Flight
Dubai Royal Air Wing
Union de Transports Aériens
Air Atlanta Icelandic
Australia Asia Airlines
There were three significant commercial around-the-world
record-setting flights flown by 747SP: two operated by
Pan Am and the
other operated by
United Airlines with the aircraft being "loaned" to
Friendship Foundation, in order to raise money for the foundation.
Those flights are:
Liberty Bell Express—Flown from New York/JFK May 1–3, 1976. 2
stopovers at Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi and
Tokyo-Haneda Airport. The round-the-world flight took 46 hours and 26
minutes over 23,137 miles.
Pan Am Flight 50—to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Pan Am. Flown
October 28–30, 1977 from San Francisco/SFO, with a time duration of
54 hours, 7 minutes, 12 seconds. 3 stopovers at London-Heathrow
Cape Town International Airport
Cape Town International Airport and Auckland Airport. Flight
50 flew over both the North Pole and the South Pole.
Friendship One—Flown January 29–31, 1988 from Seattle/SEA, to
raise funds for Friendship Foundation. Two stopovers were made, at
Athens Airport and Taipei-
Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport
(formerly the Chiang Kai-shek International Airport). The record
lasted less than a month, as it was beaten by a Gulfstream IV piloted
in part by Gulfstream Aerospace CEO Al Paulson. The round-the-world
flight took 35 hours and 54 minutes over 23,125 miles.
Incidents and accidents
On February 19, 1985,
China Airlines Flight 006, a 747SP-09 (aircraft
registration N4522V) with 274 passengers and crew on board on a flight
from Chiang Kai-shek Airport to Los Angeles International Airport
suffered an inflight failure on engine number four. While the flight
crew attempted to restore power the aircraft rolled to the right and
started a steep descent from the cruising altitude of 41,000 feet,
pulling 4.8 G and 5.1 G on two occasions. The captain managed to
stabilize the aircraft at 9,500 feet and the aircraft diverted to San
Francisco International Airport which was 550 km (343.8 mi.)
away. Two passengers were injured and the aircraft suffered major
On October 5, 1998 a
South African Airways
South African Airways
Boeing 747SP-44 (ZS-SPF)
operated by LAM
Mozambique Airlines suffered an engine failure shortly
after take-off from Maputo International Airport, Mozambique. The no.
3 engine suffered an uncontained failure – flying debris caused
damage to the no. 4 engine and the wing. A fire broke out that
couldn’t be extinguished immediately, forcing an emergency landing.
All 66 people on board survived. As a result the aircraft was
withdrawn from service and scrapped.
During the Yemeni Civil War (2015-Present), a 747SP owned by the
President of Yemen, 7O-YMN, was struck by gunfire on March 19, 2015.
Subsequent photographs show that the aircraft was then completely
destroyed by fire afterwards.
3 (2 pilots, flight engineer)
331 (28F + 303Y) or 343 (30F + 313Y)
276 (25F + 57J + 194Y)
184 ft 9 in (56.31 m)
195 ft 8 in (59.64 m)
5,500 ft² (511 m²)
65 ft 10 in (20.06 m)
Operating empty weight
325,260–336,870 lb (147,690–152,780 kg)
Maximum take-off weight
696,000 lb (315,600 kg)
Engine models (x 4)
Engine thrust (x 4)
PW 46,950–50,000 lbf (208.8–222.4 kN)
RR 50,000–53,000 lbf (220–240 kN)
Mach 0.92 (542 kn; 1,004 km/h)
Mach 0.86 (493 kn; 914 km/h)
45,100 feet (13,700 m)
5,830 nmi (10,800 km; 6,710 mi)[a]
Max Fuel capacity
50,360 USgal (190,610 l)
^ JT9D, 276 passengers
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
Lockheed L-1011 TriStar
McDonnell Douglas DC-10
Boeing 747 operators
List of civil aircraft
^ "747 Model Summary". Boeing. Retrieved December 29, 2010.
^ a b "The
Boeing 747 Classics".
Boeing Commercial Airplanes. Boeing.
Boeing also built the 747-100SP (special
performance), which had a shortened fuselage and was designed to fly
higher, faster and farther non-stop than any 747 model of its time.
^ Norris & Wagner 1999, p. 20
^ Eden, Paul. (Ed). Civil Aircraft Today. 2008: Amber Books, pp.
^ Jenkins 2000, p. 76.
^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Eden 2008, pp. 96–7.
^ Sutter, Joe (2006). 747: Creating the world's first jumbo jet and
other adventures from a life in aviation. HarperCollins. p. 218.
^ a b Norris, Guy (1997).
Boeing 747: Design and Development Since
1969. Motorbooks International. p. 74.
^ "NAS's new airborne observatory". Sky and Telescope. 120 (4):
22–28. October 2010.
^ a b 747sp.com – Production List retrieved 4 June 2016
^ "The Story of the B747SP." 747sp.com. Retrieved: July 14, 2017.
^ Chini, Amin. "
Iran Air Grounds
Boeing 747SP, Suspends Kuala Lumpur
Service (Jun 21, 2016)". AviationIran.com. Retrieved 1 January
^ "Production List – airframe 21093". 747SP.com. Retrieved 1 January
^ "Review: Farewell
Iran Air B747-SP Tehran to Mumbai". Sam Chui
Aviation & Travel. Retrieved 1 January 2017.
^ MRJ Geared Turbofan Starts Flight Tests On 747SP. Aviationweek.com.
^ a b c d e f g "Operators".
Boeing 747SP Website.
Kinshasa Airways 747SP. Airliners.net (November 3, 2003).
^ Ben R. Guttery (1998). Encyclopedia of African Airlines. McFarland
& Company. p. 125. ISBN 978-0-7864-0495-7.
^ a b "
Boeing 747SP". Zap16.com. Retrieved December 30, 2010.
Namibia 747SP. Airliners.net.
^ Alliance 747SP. Airliners.net.
^ Avia 747SP. Airliners.net (January 3, 2006).
Boeing 747SP Maluti ZS-SPC". SAA Museum. 2012. Retrieved January 4,
Boeing 747SP of Trek Airways. Trekairways.co.za (September 4,
^ Argentinas 747SP. Airliners.net (January 5, 2012).
^ "Airfleets aviation – Airline Fleet, plane, airport : Boeing
Airbus Embraer Atr Fokker Dash Beechcraft]". airfleets.net.
^ "Vintage Airline Seat Map:
Frequently Flying. Retrieved September 11, 2015.
August 31, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
^ Mercury Star News: Ballet's Head-turning Move, Fry's Owner Loans
Decorated 747 For S.J. Dancers' Tour. Nl.newsbank.com (November 21,
^ 1977/78: PanAm Routes. Airline Route (December 19, 2008).
^ 1992/93: UNITED International Network. Airline Route.
^ ch-aviation.com –
Iran Air retires the B747SP from service 26
^ Iraqi 747SP. Airliners.net (September 7, 2011).
Kazakhstan Airlines 747SP. Airliners.net (September 4, 1994).
Qatar Airways Fleet Details and History". planespotters.net.
Mandarin Airlines will make maiden flight to Australia. None.
^ Saudi Arabian Airlines – History of the 80's. Saudiairlines.com.
Syrian Air 747s status at January 2012. Ch-aviation.ch.
Tajik Air 747SP. Airliners.net.
^ "Soldiers loyal to Yemen's former president storm Aden airport". The
Guardian. Associated Press in Aden. 19 March 2015.
^ Tommy Mogren (April 6, 2015). "Yemenia 747SP damaged during
attacks". B747SP Website.
Gulf News (July 17, 2015). "Aden may tilt scales in conflict" (PDF).
^ UTA 747SP information
^ "Red, White And Q Farewell For
Qantas Aircraft". Qantas. March 4,
2002. Retrieved 2008-06-04.
^ "QFOM –
Qantas 747 VH-EBQ".
Qantas Founders Museum. Archived from
the original on December 9, 2011. Retrieved January 4, 2012.
^ Aviation Safety Network report – 19 February 1985 accident.
^ a b "747 Airplane Characteristics for Airport Planning" (PDF).
Boeing Commercial Airplanes. May 2011.
^ a b "Type Certificate Data Sheet" (PDF). FAA. February 27,
^ a b c "747-100/-200/-300/-SP" (PDF). Boeing. 2007.
Boeing 747SP". Airliners.net.
^ a b c Gregory Maxwell (January 13, 2014). "The Life and Times of the
Davies, R.E.G. (2000). TWA : an airline and its aircraft. McLean,
Virginia: Paladwr Press. ISBN 1-888962-16-X.
Jenkins, Dennis (2000).
Boeing 747-100/200/300/SP (AirlinerTech
Series, Vol. 6). North Branch, Minnesota: Specialty Press.
Norris, Guy; Wagner, Mark (1999). Modern
Boeing Jetliners. Osceola,
Wisconsin: Zenith Imprint. ISBN 0-7603-0717-2.
Baum, Brian (1997).
Boeing 747SP. Miami, Florida: World Transport
Press. ISBN 0-9626730-7-2.
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