Pan Am’s pioneering Boeing 747SP flights

Pan Am pioneered ultra long-range flights with the Boeing 747SP.  In the November 2017 issue of Aviation News Bob O’Brien described how this famous airline made use of this specialised jumbo.

The arrival of the jumbo jet at the end of the 1960s revolutionised commercial air travel.  More passengers than ever before could be carried in a single aircraft – the dual-aisled, widebody Boeing 747 dwarfed its predecessors.

Pan American World Airways (Pan Am) was the launch customer, placing orders for 25 with deliveries beginning in 1969.  This early involvement saw the airline exert a huge influence on the aircraft’s design and development.  It is arguable that no carrier since has had the same effect on such a major aerospace project. 

Once the 747 was in regular service around the world, it became apparent that the original airframe had many more uses.

In 1973, Pan Am was looking for an aircraft that would enable it to fly non-stop from the USA to Asia and the Middle East. 

Lockheed and McDonnell Douglas tendered for the contract with the L-1011 TriStar and DC-10 respectively, but Pan Am’s affinity with the 747 project saw Boeing win out.  The two airlines set to work with the design team in Seattle.

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