Friday, July 18, 2008

Not Classic Jetliners (7) : Boeing 747SP

The Boeing 747 is of course the iconic Jumbo Jet and the mainstay of the world's long-haul passenger fleets (though to be honest i fly on Airbus A340s to Asia most often these days) and over 1400 have been built to date. However only 45 of these have been the 747SP Special Performance, a heavily modified version for longer range flights.

The 747SP was developed as a shorter-bodied version of the 747-100, this was partly to try and compete in the market with the smaller wide-bodies of the time, the Tristar and DC-10 (and indeed Boeing did explore a 3 engined version of the 747 that looked like someone had cut the tail off a Tristar and stuck it onto the end of a 747) and also for the new market need growing in the late 1970s for ultra-long range routes.

The 747SP looks quite different to a "normal" 747 in having a fuselage around 14m shorter to give it a stubby look but also a taller tail fin (the shorter fuselage caused increased yaw movement) and simpler flaps. The 747SP can carry around 300 passengers in a mixed class layout and has a typical range of 6650nm compared to 5300nm for a fully loaded standard 747-100 (it was the longest range airliner available until the arrival of the 747-400 in the late 1980s). The SP is also faster being able to cruise at Mach 0.88 compared to Mach 0.82 for a -100.

However despite the "special performance" only 45 SPs were built due to the increased oil price in the 1970s and reduced capacity of the type compared to normal 747s. Less than 20 are still in service, many serving as VIP aircraft with Middle Eastern governments.

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