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NG Models 1:400 Boeing 747SP: South African Airways

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NG Models 1:400 Boeing 747SP: South African Airways

NG Models 1:400 Boeing 747SP: South African Airways

The Boeing 747SP (for Special Performance) is a shortened version of the Boeing 747 widebody airliner, designed for a longer range. Boeing needed a smaller aircraft to compete with the McDonnell Douglas DC-10 and Lockheed L-1011 TriStar trijet widebodies, introduced in 1971/1972. Pan Am requested a 747-100 derivative to fly between New York and the Middle East, a request also shared by Iran Air, and the first order came from Pan Am in 1973.

The variant first flew on July 4, 1975, was approved by the Federal Aviation Administration on February 4, 1976, and entered service that year with Pan Am.

The SP is 47 ft (14 m) shorter than all other 747 variants. Its main deck doors are reduced to four on each side to compensate for its lower capacity. The vertical and horizontal tailplane are larger and its wing flaps have been simplified. With a 700,000 lb (320 t) MTOW, it can fly 276 passengers in three classes over 5,830 nmi (10,800 km). One 747SP was modified into the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA). The last airliner was delivered in 1987; some were converted to transports of heads of state. Sales did not meet the expected 200 units, and only 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 was the longest non-stop commercial flight in the world for a short time). The aircraft was launched with Pan Am's first order in 1973 and the first example delivered in 1976.

A shorter derivative of the a 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.

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