|Boeing 747SP of launch customer Pan American World Airways|
|Role||Wide-body jet airliner|
|Manufacturer||Boeing Airplane Company|
|First flight||July 4, 1975|
|Introduction||1976 with Pan Am|
|Status||In limited service as governmental, charter or VIP aircraft, one in service as SOFIA.|
|Primary users||Pan Am (historical)|
South African Airways (historical)
Iran Air (historical)
China Airlines (historical)
The 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 permitted longer range and increased speed relative to other 747 configurations at the time.
Known during development as the short-body 747SB, the 747SP was designed to meet a 1973 joint request from Pan American World Airways and Iran Air, who were looking for a high-capacity airliner with sufficient range to cover Pan Am's New York-Middle Eastern routes and 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 entered service with Pan Am in 1976. The aircraft was later acquired by VIP and government customers. The 747SP set several aeronautical performance records, but sales did not meet the expected 200 units, and 45 aircraft were ultimately produced.
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 Iran Air's 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, until 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 Sutter. 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, 1976.
The 747SP was the longest-range airliner available until long-range modification of the 747-200B entered service in early 1980s. 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, high 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 "Clipper Lindbergh", NASA has the name displayed in script on the port side of the aircraft.
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.
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[verification needed] In 2016, the last 747SP in commercial service was withdrawn from service after 40 years by Iran Air. As of 2017 , the majority of the ten aircraft still in service are used for governmental or VIP transport., there were 10 Boeing 747SPs still in active service with 9 more stored and 1 preserved. The remaining 25 were either scrapped, otherwise destroyed or abandoned.
This list also includes organizations that used the aircraft temporarily, besides main operators.
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:
|Cockpit crew||3 (2 pilots, flight engineer)|
|2-class seats||331 (28F + 303Y) or 343 (30F + 313Y)|
|3-class seats||276 (25F + 57J + 194Y)|
|Overall length||184 ft 9 in (56.31 m)|
|Wingspan||195 ft 8 in (59.64 m)|
|Wing area||5,500 sq ft (511 m2)|
|Overall height||65 ft 10 in (20.07 m)|
|Operating empty weight||325,260-336,870 lb (147,540-152,800 kg)|
|Maximum take-off weight||696,000 lb (315,700 kg)|
|Maximum landing weight||450,000 lb (204,100 kg)|
|Engine models (x 4)||PW JT9D-7(A/AH/F/FW/J)|
|Engine thrust (x 4)||PW 46,950-50,000 lbf (208.8-222.4 kN)|
RR 49,150-51,980 lbf (219-231 kN)
|Maximum speed||Mach 0.92 (542 kn; 1,004 km/h)|
|Cruising speed||Mach 0.86 (493 kn; 914 km/h)|
|Service ceiling||45,100 feet (13,700 m)|
|Maximum range||5,830 nmi (10,800 km; 6,710 mi)[a]|
|Max Fuel capacity||50,360 US gal (190,630 L)|
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
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. \
Media related to Boeing 747SP at Wikimedia Commons